In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has published new resources outlining recommendations for journalists, legislators, and courts to ensure the press and public’s right of access to government information and proceedings is protected while entities take necessary steps to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Press freedom and government transparency during COVID-19” addresses frequently asked questions that journalists and others may have about court access, public records and open meetings, and the impact of measures implemented under governments’ emergency powers in response to the coronavirus. Specifically, it provides guidance on:
- best practices for government bodies to ensure they safeguard the public’s right to access open meetings and public records as they implement emergency measures;
- the impact of “social distancing” and “shelter in place” orders on newsgathering, and how journalists reporting in areas where such orders are in effect can prepare; and
- steps courts have taken so far in response to the pandemic, and how the judicial system can preserve access to proceedings and records.
The Reporters Committee will continue to update these resources and others as the situation around COVID-19 — and how federal, state, and local governments respond to it — evolves. Anyone who has information about government responses to COVID-19 that impact newsgathering rights or public access should submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Reporters Committee will use this material for addditional updates as conditions warrant.
Journalists who have questions about or need assistance with their legal rights, or who encounter issues while reporting on COVID-19, can contact the Reporters Committee’s hotline by filling out an online form, emailing email@example.com, or calling 1-800-336-4243.
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.