10.05.20

Rep. Takano Introduces Legislation to Hold Law Enforcement Officers Accountable for Attacks on the Free Press

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) introduced The Attacks on Free Press Transparency Act to create an electronic system within the Department of Justice (DOJ) for members of the press to report violent interactions with law enforcement. The bill addresses the blatant lack of information on law enforcement and their interactions with the press and will help ensure that if law enforcement agencies intentionally target members of the press to prevent them from reporting on the matter at hand, they will be held accountable for their actions. 

“Members of the press should be able to lawfully record and cover matters of the public without interference by law enforcement. Sadly, this is not the case,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “In the wake of civil protests and unrest across the country, police accountability is more important than ever before. There have been hundreds of incidents where law enforcement has deliberately targeted members of the press – and sometimes even going further to harass, arrest, or assault these individuals for carrying out their duties. The targeting of press by law enforcement – intentional or otherwise – is unacceptable. The First Amendment guarantees both freedom of speech and freedom of press – we must protect these fundamental pillars of a fundamental democracy at all costs and my bill will help us do so.”

Many outside groups work tirelessly and at great expense to track these unlawful attacks. Yet, the process can be onerous and not fully transparent. In order to protect the free press, the federal government should begin formally tracking these attacks so that we can fully understand the breadth of any efforts to suppress a free press.

The Attacks on Free Press Transparency Act would:

  • Establish an electronic system within the Department of Justice for members of the press to submit formal complaints alleging misconduct against law enforcement agencies.
  • Require law enforcement agencies that are the subject to complaints to respond within a period of 60 days.
  • Ensure accountability for law enforcement agencies that fail to acknowledge formal complaints and subject agencies to a 50% reduction of Byrne funding as well as a temporary suspension from participating in the 1033 program.
  • Require the Attorney General to make this data available to the general public on an annual basis.

This bill is endorsed by the Radio Television Digital News Association and The Society of Professional Journalists. 

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