NY governor wants to make it a felony to assault journalists
By:   //  Investigative Reports, News Briefs

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to make it a felony to assault a working journalist, bringing it from a misdemeanor to a class D felony.

“Reporters have a tough enough job as it and it is unacceptable and unconscionable that they increasingly have to endure the threat of physical harm just for doing their jobs,” said Cuomo, a Democrat. “While the current federal administration is fostering an environment that normalizes and even encourages attacks on the press, New York is taking a stand. It is my hope that other states join us in enacting these protections into law once and for all.”

Cuomo, whose brother Chris Cuomo is a primetime CNN host, blamed the Trump administration for launching “an attack on the press, labeling journalism it does not like as ‘fake news’ to advance the administration’s own agenda and inspire hatred of the media among the public.”

The proposal has been met with skepticism — from journalists.

A syndicated editorial from the New York Daily News states, “Thanks but no thanks. In a free society, there is no consistent and principled definition of what a journalist is.”

It continues, “Every day, thousands of New Yorkers tweet in real time about the conditions of their subways and streets and neighborhoods, about crimes they witness and other things. They attend public hearings and community board meetings and tell their neighbors about what they see and hear. Are they journalists?

“Assault, obviously, is already a crime in New York — either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the severity of the injury. For a select few victims, generally individuals who are performing sensitive and dangerous work on behalf of the public like EMTs, health inspectors and transit workers, the law upgrades misdemeanor assault to felony assault.”

Others have expressed similar opinions. David Andreatta, a columnist for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in upstate New York, warned that giving special treatment to journalists can lead to a slippery slope, writing “There’s no end to the number of jobs that prompt visceral reactions from some segment of society. Why not debt collectors, defense attorneys, parking enforcement officers and artists? Are we to upgrade misdemeanor assault to a felony for all of them?”

Professional journalists aren’t required to be licensed or registered in the state of New York. Marwa Fahes gives a good description of the difference between citizen journalism and traditional journalism.

The governor’s Democratic party controls both houses of the New York state legislature.

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