Senate Ends Restrictions on Journalists Following Massive Public Outcry

New restrictions imposed on the U.S. Capitol Press Corps have now been rescinded after a wave of public outrage.

Earlier on Tuesday, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt reported that the U.S. Senate Radio and TV Gallery put in a new rule that prohibited political reporters from filming members of the U.S. Senate in the hallways of the Capitol. Under the new rules, journalists could only conduct interviews if they were previously scheduled with the senator’s staff, and only with the blessing of the Senate Rules Committee.

The timing of the rule’s announcement was particularly poor, as journalists are attempting to get answers from members of the Senate about the details of the new Republican healthcare reform proposal, which is being discussed and written in secret.

Senator Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) initially defended the restrictions on political reporters, saying that senators could “trip” on TV camera cords — even though many modern news cameras are cordless. However, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) criticized the new rules, saying “[W]hoever is trying to protect Senators – we can fend for ourselves.”

However, following a wave of condemnation from Washington’s press corps, the Senate Rules Committee appears to have reversed the decision, saying reporters can continue to conduct business in the Capitol “as if it as yesterday.” According to Hunt, the Capitol switchboard was inundated with calls from angry constituents about the new rules, including from one American living in Egypt.

While today’s restrictions were narrowly avoided, it’s important to note that President Trump and his chief advisor, Stephen Bannon, have both repeatedly referred to the media as the “enemy.” As of last year, the U.S. ranked at #41 in the World Press Freedom Index. Reporters in Chile (#31) and Ghana (#26) have more press freedom than American reporters.

 

Jamie Green is a contributor to the Resistance Report covering the Trump administration, and lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.