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NY Governor Offers Journalists A Gift No Journalist Would Be Interested In Receiving

File under: Things No One Asked For

In case you can't read/see the tweet, it's New York governor Andrew Cuomo threatening to enact a #JournalistsLivesMatter law -- something no journalist has ever suggested they might want.

Let’s make assaulting the press a felony in New York State. Last year saw heinous and deadly attacks against members of the press, journalists must be protected from the threat of physical harm for just for doing their jobs.

While it's refreshing to see a political figure think someone other than law enforcement might need a little extra protection, sentencing enhancements that only apply when certain people are assaulted or killed is never the answer. The state already has a law against assaulting journalists. It's called assault. And in certain cases, it can be felony. (Which, ironically enough, happens anytime anyone assaults a cop in New York.)

There's no reason for journalists to be afforded extra protections just because of their job. If it doesn't make sense for cops, it doesn't make sense for journalists. A profession is not a race, gender, or religious persuasion. Hate crime laws make very little sense themselves, but at least they address the fact people may be targeted for aspects about themselves they have no control over. Journalists and cops don't need to be journalists and cops. A person's race is not a choice and they can be targeted for abuse and physical attacks simply for being the wrong color.

But there's a disturbing aspect to this proposal you won't find in Blue Lives Matter laws: the government gets to pick and choose who's a journalist. That's something we really don't want the government to be doing because it invites direct intervention in First Amendment protected activities.

We've already seen some legislators attempt to do this while pushing for shield laws. While it's a good idea to leave journalists unmolested by government agencies -- especially in light of Attorney General nominee William Barr's remarks during his confirmation hearing -- the laws allow the government to decide who's a journalist and who can be forced to turn over sources without repercussion.

Journalism is an action as much as it is a profession. WikiLeaks personnel should be eligible for shield law protections as should a local blogger who covers small town political issues. Anyone continuously pestering the government with FOIA requests is engaged in journalism, even if all they do is dump the documents in the public domain with a minimum of commentary. Shield laws -- and Cuomo's severe misreading of the room -- make journalism just a bit riskier by giving the government the power to decide who's qualified to bring you the news.

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