Journalism Associations Urge NYS Gov. Hochul to Veto Body Armor Bill
Coalition urges preservation of journalists’ access to protective gear
NEW YORK, NY, JUNE 5, 2022 – A coalition representing thousands of journalists nationwide, led by the Deadline Club, the New York City professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), signed an unprecedented letter urging New York Governor Kathy Hochul to veto a measure passed by the New York State Legislature. The bill would restrict the sale of body armor in the wake of the May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo and repeated gun violence around the country.
“The legislation is well-intentioned but includes a serious flaw that jeopardizes the safety of journalists,” said Deadline Club President Colin DeVries. “It could seriously hamper news gathering at active crime scenes and sites of civil unrest, as well as for journalists headed to conflict zones abroad.
“Body armor is one of the tools of the trade for any New York–based reporter covering a hot spot,” DeVries continued. “It is necessary equipment for reporters and photojournalists whose jobs take them to dangerous places.”
The legislation exempts members of an “eligible profession,” and includes specific carve-outs for police officers and members of the military, but not for journalists. The bill empowers the New York Department of State to decide whether journalism is an eligible profession.
“[But] even if journalism received the blanket designation,” said the letter to Governor Hochul, “individual journalists and news organizations seeking to purchase body vests still would have to affirmatively prove that they are engaged in this work. What would qualify as proof for a body vest vendor who could face criminal liability for a wrong decision?”
Moreover, the letter stated, the bill as written could leave journalists themselves criminally liable if they loan protective gear to other journalists, such as freelancers.
Members of the ad hoc coalition supporting the letter include:
Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Deadline Club’s parent organization
SPJ’s Long Island chapter, the Press Club of Long Island
Society of Professional Journalists Region 1 Coordinator Chris Vaccaro
New York News Publishers Association
New York Press Photographers Association
National Press Photographers Association
Radio Television Digital News Association
New York State Broadcasters Association, Inc
The Deadline Club, founded in 1925, is the New York City chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the nation’s oldest and broadest-based journalism organization. Learn more at deadlineclub.org.