AFTRA and The Freedom to Report and the Freedom to Know

The right of Americans to know – and for reporters to tell – is facing a crisis of historic proportions. Unchallenged bans on images of flag-draped military caskets; seizures by federal marshals of reporters’ tape recordings; and the admission by a network chief news editor that his war reporting would be in the context of a “patriot first and a journalist second” rightly leave many in the public questioning the reliability of their news media. As the union representing America’s broadcast journalists, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists must take a principled, inflexible and unflinching stand on behalf of the right of Americans to know the truth and of reporters to tell that truth.

AFTRA must support all of its member-journalists in the exercise of their explicit First Amendment rights. We enjoy a rare and protected status within the United States Constitution: virtually the only profession protected from government interference by “black letter law.” To accept unconstitutional limits imposed by government – either by edict or coercion – is to turn our backs on those who awarded us that protection and those reporters who came before us.

To that end:

1. AFTRA urges all of its broadcast members to resist, by every means appropriate, all illegal government restraints on the reporting of news, including the improper seizure by law enforcement personnel of notes, tapes, film, or other media;

2. AFTRA urges all of its media employers to utilize their considerable resources to defend employees’ right to report, including timely legal representation and political lobbying;

3. AFTRA demands that all federal, state, and local government agencies and their employees immediately cease all efforts to limit the freedom to report and the freedom to know; and

4. AFTRA calls on the 2004 presidential candidates of all major parties to reaffirm their support for the First Amendment through a public commitment that their administrations will not attempt to illegally restrict the right of reporters to gather and disseminate information and the right of the public to full access to matters of public concern.


Press Contact:
Kacy Strand
(212) 532-0800

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