Frank LoMonte Comments on the Proposed Journalism Protection Law
Frank LoMonte, director of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, is quoted in “The Time is Right for a Journalism Protection Law. But We Need a Federal Shield Law” published in the Columbia Journalism Review on Feb. 9.
The article focuses on a bill introduced by U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) making it a federal crime to assault a journalist. Titled the “Journalist Protection Act,” the bill would amend the chapter of the federal code that includes, among other things, penalties for assaults against certain government officials, such as judges, prosecutors, and members of Congress.
“If someone’s going to take a swing at a journalist for being a journalist, there’s probably a political or ideological motive, so perhaps the concern is to make those cases easier to prosecute through the more insulated federal system,” LoMonte said. “The better use of resources is to pursue a shield law. The criminal justice system ought to adequately punish physical attacks on journalists anyway, and the far more worrisome concern is the pursuit of leakers and sources directly by pressuring journalists and indirectly by obtaining data from digital intermediaries who might not adequately protect it.”