Mar 1, 2021 - Business

Tampa lawmaker pushes to make violence against journalists a hate crime

A woman holds a newspaper showing deaths at a newsroom in Maryland.

Andrea Chamblee (center), the widow of reporter John McNamara, at a vigil in Annapolis, Maryland, after he and four other journalists were killed in a mass shooting at the Capital Gazette on June 28, 2018. Photo: Calla Kessler/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

State Sen. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) has filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session that would extend the protection of the state’s hate crime statutes to reporters, William March reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Why it matters: 400 attacks on journalists were reported nationwide in 2020, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

  • In Florida, the tracker cites 21 incidents over the last four years, including attacks by political rally attendees, subjects of news stories, and police officers, as well as harassment or obstruction by public officials.
"I can’t stand by and watch people be attacked for the work they do in the noble profession of reporting what’s happening."
Sen. Janet Cruz to the Tampa Bay Times

Selene's thought bubble: I almost lost my life for being a reporter. My friends lost theirs.

  • As a journalist, it is not my place to endorse a piece of legislation — and Cruz did not research the history of attacks against journalists, her proposal having been inspired chiefly by those that occurred during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
  • But I will say anything that makes people take violence against journalists more seriously should be considered so more members of the profession don't have to lose their lives for telling the truth.

Go deeper: Listen to the first two episodes NPR's podcast following the Capital Gazette staff after the 2018 shooting in their newsroom.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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