Bill drafted requiring journalists’ licensing absurd, against First Amendment
Every day the war on media grows. Whether it’s our president tweeting about how every report on him or his policies is “fake news,” or somebody getting mad at the facts that are reported, the media generally isn’t well received.
Most recently, Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, has taken the war on media to a new level. As a guest on “No Limits,” a radio talk show hosted by Director of the Pulliam School of Journalism John Krull, Lucas talked about a bill he drafted that would require journalists to be licensed.
The drafted bill, if passed, would require professional journalists to submit an application to the Indiana State Police. They would be fingerprinted and would have to pay a fee of $75 for a lifetime license. Journalists with a felony or domestic battery conviction would be prohibited from receiving a license.
“This proposal is potentially more dangerous because it would allow the government to choose who can and cannot be journalists, and that’s unconstitutional,” senior and multimedia journalism major Makenna Mays said.
The wording of this bill is almost an exact copy of Indiana’s law that requires having a license to carry a handgun—a law Lucas has tried on several occasions to get repealed.
As journalism students, hearing that a house representative wants to put a license on our career brings pause and worry about what could happen if something like this were to go into effect.
Would the money we spent on college be a waste if we didn’t get the license? Would we be allowed to practice journalism in other states? Would anyone be able to get a job as a journalist?
It’s not a logical bill. It doesn’t do anything but make Lucas look like he has something to hide and that he has bought into Trump’s rhetoric of fake news.
Lucas’s aim for this bill is to make a point about the licensing of gun laws more so than making journalists have a license. He asked The Indianapolis Star, if it’s OK to put licenses on the Second Amendment, why shouldn’t others get the same treatment?
“Making a valid point about gun licensing and restrictions on constitutional rights is one thing, but doing that by equating our First and Second Amendment rights is missing the mark,” Mays said.
Though Lucas wants to make a point, he’s forgetting journalists already have copy rights and libel laws they must follow. These laws are in place to make sure that journalists are telling the truth and reporting the facts.
While the words of a journalist can be powerful and could potentially ruin someone’s reputation—even if they are accurate—it’s important to see a major distinction: Those words can’t kill anyone.
“I think it is important to recognize that words coming from an irresponsible journalist, while potentially causing a lot of damage, are never going to kill someone,” Mays said. “However, a gun in the hand of an irresponsible person can and has killed people.”
This drafted bill may just exist to make a point, but the thoughts behind it are dangerous. If we start putting laws on the freedom of press, what’s next? The freedom of speech?
Of course it is, and Lucas already proved that by drafting a second, broader journalism bill that would license things such as religious expression, speech and the right to vote.
Journalists keep the public informed on everything. If you take away their ability to do that, then you are taking away the public’s resource to know what is happening.
People in positions of power would get away with more, and nobody would know until it is too late.
THE OPINION BOARD
The Franklin staff believes the regulations in place that journalists follow are enough, so they shouldn’t be licensed.