Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a proposal to increase criminal penalties for assaulting the press is included in the 2019 Executive Budget. In order to provide additional protections for journalists in light of recent acts of violence against members of the media, the Governor is advancing legislation would increase the penalties of assault against a journalist while performing their journalistic job duties to a felony level offense.
"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."
This legislation will increase the penalty for assaulting a journalist from a misdemeanor to a class D felony. Similar elevated protections exist for other professions, including nurses, utility workers, MTA employees, emergency medical service technicians and process servers.
Members of the media should feel safe performing the duties of their jobs. The Governor's legislation will reaffirm that New York State has zero tolerance for any violent attacks against journalists and will hold those who violate the law fully accountable.
The freedom of the press is a constitutionally-guaranteed right and a pillar of our democracy. However, the Trump administration has launched 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. Unfortunately, the rhetoric and public discourse has dissolved into violence and attempted attacks on journalists, news outlets, and members of the press. In 2017, a congressional candidate violently assaulted a reporter for asking unwanted questions—an act that was later celebrated by President Trump. Last October, a Florida man was accused of mailing 14 bombs addressed to prominent political figures and news agencies, two of which were addressed care of a national news network at their New York studio. In August 2018, a California man was arrested after calling the Boston Globe approximately a dozen times threatening to shoot reporters.