Newsies see tough times

Leaders of the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have unanimously passed resolutions opposing increased legal pressure on journalists in news gathering.

“It appears that the very act of news gathering itself is now under attack in this country,” said Rebecca Rhine, AFTRA’s assistant national exec director. “It is frightening to contemplate an environment where journalists are routinely thrown in jail for simply asking questions and seeking information in the course of providing accurate and timely information to the public.”

The resolutions were passed by AFTRA’s national board at its plenary meeting Saturday. AFTRA’s 80,000 members include news broadcasters.

The first resolution supports Jim Taricani, a TV reporter who has been found in contempt of court for refusing to reveal a source who exposed political corruption in Providence, R.I., and faces the possibility of a six-month jail sentence. AFTRA’s statement said it recognizes the value to society of the continuous flow of information, including information from confidential sources, and supports the call for a federal shield law covering all reporters.

The second resolution supports reporter Demorris Lee of the News Observer newspaper in Raleigh, N.C., who’s been arrested on charges of harassment after leaving two telephone messages on the voicemail of a story subject, asking if that subject wanted to respond to allegations against her.

AFTRA said it “deplores the issuance of arrest warrants for conduct that amounts to the appropriate, normal everyday conduct of journalism; and calls on the appropriate judicial authorities in North Carolina to investigate whether the magistrate who issued the warrant, Angel Foster, acted appropriately.”

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