TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WWSB) - A Tampa lawmaker has proposed a bill that would add journalists to the list of persons protected by hate crimes legislation in Florida.
In a news release, State Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, said her bill, SB1558, is “about staying true to our nation’s most sacred values. Preserving the relationship of mutual trust with an essential institution, like a free press, is instrumental to the success of our democracy.”
Currently, hate crimes are defined as crimes against any person as an expression of hatred toward the victim because of characteristics including race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation disability, age and homeless status.
If the bill becomes law, penalties for a conviction would be more severe than for a crime against someone not under these protections.
“It is a dark reality that members of the press in our country are facing a heightened risk of violent attacks as a result of irresponsible leadership throughout our country,” she said. “What sort of indictment is it on us if we fail to protect those that pursue no other goal but the interest of the public good?”
Cruz noted the assault on journalists during the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S Capitol. “Multiple members of the press were surrounded, intimidated, their equipment destroyed, and their lives threatened,” said Cruz. “Perhaps most memorable, was the image of ‘Murder the Media’ scratched into a door inside the U.S. Capitol,” Cruz said.
The bill would also define what a journalist is: An accredited member of the press corps or media; a photographer or photojournalist employed by a newspaper, a magazine, or any other media company; or an individual operating equipment to facilitate the delivery of news or media.