News & Politics

Should Assaulting a Journalist Be a Felony?

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones via AP)

In his state of the state address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed making assaulting a journalist a felony.

Washington Times:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the increasing number of threats against journalists shows the need for stronger criminal penalties for assaulting a member of the press.

The Democrat is proposing to make assaulting a journalist a felony.

If approved by lawmakers, journalists would join a long list of other occupations covered by similar assault laws, including police, fire fighters, judges, train conductors, bus drivers, prosecutors, sanitation workers and health care workers.

Cuomo announced the proposal Tuesday during his annual state of the state address.

Cuomo cited several recent threats and attacks targeting working journalists, including pipe bombs mailed to CNN last year. He said reporters have a vital role to play in American life and should feel safe to do their work.

A felony for assaulting a journalist because of the “increasing number of threats”? There are increasing threats against conservatives. Why not make assaulting a conservative a felony offense?

What is a “journalist”? Who is a “journalist”? Is a guy sitting in his parents’ basement blogging about sports a journalist? Why not?

Cuomo, who has had his problems with the Albany press, may just be pandering.

“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 for just for doing their jobs,” Governor Cuomo said. “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.”

Yes, reporters can be targets given the hyper-partisan atmosphere in which we currently live. But will the increased penalty for assaulting a reporter deter anyone from doing so? Deterrence hasn’t worked by passing “hate crime” legislation and it won’t work here. The idea that anyone will stop and think about a longer jail sentence before socking a reporter is absurd.

Being a reporter is not a privileged occupation. They are not high priests of some religion and this notion that journalism is a “sacred calling” is a little overblown.

This is a useless proposal that should be ignored by the legislature.