Legislation reinforces freedom of the press, aims to remove politics from the process
New York, NY, October 14, 2020 – New York City Council Member Keith Powers will introduce legislation on Thursday to transfer press credential approval and revocation authority away from the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) jurisdiction. The legislation is co-sponsored by Council Member Adrienne Adams and supported by Comptroller Scott Stringer.
During the summer protests in New York City, the NYPD proposed changes to the rules regarding the suspension and revocation of press credentials. The NYPD’s proposal, made during a time when the department was receiving heightened media coverage, raised the issue of whether one of the largest and most heavily-scrutinized city agencies should control press credentials. In an editorial published over the summer, the New York Times chronicled the threatening tactics the NYPD employed with regard to the handling of press credentials and treatment of journalists.
With the evolution of media platforms over the past several years, the City must have flexibility to reconsider the criteria for receiving a credential. Transferring press credential approval and revocation authority to an administrative agency minimizes the threat of revocation or difficulty securing a press pass in the first place.
“Freedom of the press is one of our country’s greatest protections. The NYPD should not have the power to dictate who can and cannot cover them,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “The way to ensure that press coverage is not impacted by an agency heavily covered by the media is to remove it from the process, and overall reconsider criteria needed to obtain a press pass. This legislation creates a more balanced system while reinforcing the importance of a free press.”
The proposal would give the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) authority over press credentials. If passed, it would be a new rulemaking process and guidelines that DCAS would have to develop in issuing press credentials.
“Freedom of the press is an important part of our democracy,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “For many New York City journalists, a press pass is key to their livelihood and the NYPD’s broad discretion and lack of transparency in the process cannot continue. Moving the authority to issue and revoke press credentials is necessary to protect the independence of press in New York City.”
“Our democracy depends on a free, unfettered press, and it’s clear that we cannot entrust that essential principle to the sole discretion of law enforcement,” said Comptroller Scott Stringer. “That is why I have called on the Mayor to remove the responsibility for issuing press credentials from the NYPD. This meaningful reform would break down a failed status quo and protect the First Amendment that is central to our founding ideals.”
Currently, journalists who want to obtain a city-issued press pass apply to the NYPD, through the Office of the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information (DCPI). Press passes allow journalists access to various city events, scenes, and institutions, such as entry City Hall and crime scenes. As a part of the process, applicants must submit a series of published articles and meet specific eligibility requirements, such as having previously covered city-specific events. It took local news site Gothamist nearly 10 years for the NYPD to issue credentials to its journalists.