In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has taken action to address new threats and challenges journalists face while gathering the news we all rely on. Now, more than ever, support from our donors is crucial as we provide pro bono legal services for newsrooms and journalists in communities across the nation.
We have published 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, this resource 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.
We have been busy on other fronts as well. We testified before the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet on the importance of transparency within the federal judiciary during the COVID-19 pandemic. And we submitted comments to the Judicial Conference in response to an invitation for input on adopting practices that could improve court operations in future emergencies, considering the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal courts have increased access while social distancing by holding virtual court proceedings, allowing the public to tune in through teleconferencing and videoconferencing.
The Reporters Committee will continue to update our legal guides and resources as the COVID-19 pandemic — and how federal, state and local governments respond to it — evolves. We will provide legal services and support for journalists trying to access the public records necessary for reporting around the public health crisis. We will also continue to offer trainings for journalists working within pandemic restrictions in their communities.
Through all of it, we thank you for your support.
Donors with questions can send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone who has information about government responses to COVID-19 that impact newsgathering rights or public access should submit them to email@example.com. The Reporters Committee will use this material for additional 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 our online form, or calling 1-800-336-4243.