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The The New England First Amendment Coalition and other advocates asked the U.S. Senate today to reconsider press restrictions during the impeachment trial of President Trump.
“Absent an articulable security rationale,” wrote the groups in a Jan. 16 letter drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Senate leaders and security officials “have an obligation to preserve and promote the public’s right to know.”
The Senate Standing Committee of Correspondents, the group of Senate reporters who issue credentials and uphold the rules of the Senate press gallery, urged Senate leadership on Jan. 14 to relax the restrictions, which include enhanced screening of reporters entering the press gallery and confining reporters to a press “pen” on the second floor of the Senate to prevent them from “walking and talking” with senators.
The standing committee had advocated for a temporary loosening of the existing restriction on the use of electronic devices in the Senate chamber (such devices are normally prohibited in the Senate’s upper gallery, and reporters will enter and exit to use their laptops and phones).
But Senate leadership and security officials declined and added additional screening devices at the entrance to the gallery. The restrictions will prevent reporters from moving back and forth from the gallery to report on breaking developments.
“With these restrictions in place, journalists’ efforts to share timely and accurate updates and commentary on the proceedings with the American public will be impeded,” the groups wrote.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.
Major Supporters of NEFAC include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.