A journalist’s job is to ask questions, get answers and inform the public with accuracy and credibility. But right now, the free press is under assault.
“We have to decide as a country that the First Amendment really matters.”
— Jason Rezaian, journalist at The Washington Post
Here are some things you can do to protect and defend press freedom — a great tradition enshrined in the First Amendment and a core value of American life:
Contributing your support for your local news organization, a national news outlet, a nonprofit newsroom, or a public radio station is the most direct way to support quality journalism in your community.
You can also subscribe for updates on our work at the Reporters Committee to fight for the legal rights of journalists and news organizations by signing up for our monthly newsletter (use our sign up box on this page or go to rcfp.org/subscribe).
Supporting organizations like the Reporters Committee helps fund the fight to protect the rights of journalists to gather and report the news, defend reporters from being forced to reveal confidential sources and push back against government agencies when they refuse to turn over public information that’s key to keeping you informed.
You can make a one-time donation, or help us sustain the work throughout the year by making a monthly recurring gift.
Demand government transparency.
Band together. Connect with civil society and good government groups who push to strengthen transparency.
Urge your local leaders to operate in the open. That can mean ensuring public meetings are publicly announced, agendas are posted, and background documents are available for public review. Is spending publicly available? Are police arrest logs available for public inspection? Are bodycam recordings made public?
Ask your local officials to commit to answering press inquiries promptly and professionally and to annually remind the public of the value and impact of a free press. Ask how your leaders are protecting the Constitutional right to a free press.
Conduct an open government audit. Share your results and ask leaders to improve. See SunshineWeek.org for ideas.
See for yourself.
Go ahead — ask for the proof. President Ronald Reagan often said, “Trust, but verify.”
The federal Freedom of Information Act is a powerful tool for anyone to obtain documents upon request. FOIA ensures your right to be informed while also protecting vital interests such as national security and personal privacy. State laws and local ordinances may have different names but they work the same way.
Some FOIA requests come from journalists, but most come from members of the public who are NOT part of the media. Requests by anyone for public information should be answered promptly; it’s your right to see the documents.
- Exercise your right to know by using FOIA. Not sure how to get started? This should help.
- Push leaders to strengthen FOIA, your state open records law, or local ordinance.
- Ensure requesters can be reimbursed for costs associated with a lawsuit when an agency wrongly withholds requested documents.
- Ensure your state give requesters the right to an independent review of an agency’s denial. (Many states and the federal government have a FOIA Ombudsman.)
- Ensure the FOIA Ombudsman has the clear authority to require an agency to disclose records.
Ask for legislation that protects press freedom.
A federal shield law and federal protections against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) are legislative measures that would protect press freedom and the First Amendment.
Push your legislators to strengthen your state “shield law,” which allows journalists to protect confidential sources without fear of going to jail. Sometimes, sources ask to be confidential if they have contacted a journalist to reveal possible wrongdoing, waste or fraud.
- See how your state shield law compares with others.
- Ask your national leaders to support legislation to enact a federal shield law. Congress nearly passed a federal shield law in 2013.
Some people will use the courts to intimidate or bankrupt journalism and free speech. Some states have good laws to protect against so-called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (a.k.a., “SLAPP” suits), while other states have weak or narrow laws, or no protection at all.
- Push to ensure your state’s anti-SLAPP law is strong.
- Encourage Congress to enact a federal anti-SLAPP law.
Together we’ll keep fighting to protect our right to information and our free press.