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District 4

Keith Powers

Midtown South-Flatiron-Union Square, Midtown-Times Square, Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, Murray Hill-Kips Bay, East Midtown-Turtle Bay, United Nations, Upper East Side-Carnegie Hill

Legislation reinforces press freedom, strengthens rights of members of the press

March 25, 2021

New York, NY – The New York City Council voted Thursday to pass Intro. 2118, transferring 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, as well as Council Members Kallos, Constantinides, Levine, Louis, Chin, Rosenthal, and Public Advocate Williams.

The bill will give the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) the sole authority to issue, suspend, and revoke press credentials. The legislation now requires an Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) hearing before any press credential can be seized, suspended, or revoked. Members of the press will also have the right to an OATH hearing to challenge the denial of an application for press credentials. There will be a new rulemaking process and guidelines that MOME would have to develop in issuing press credentials.

“Freedom of the press is one of our country’s greatest protections. In New York City, we are taking one step further today to ensure that this protection is guaranteed,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “My legislation ensures that we have a system for distributing press credentials that is fair, equitable, and accessible.”

“Moving press credentialing from the NYPD to the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment is an important step to ensure New York City’s journalists have a more transparent and fair process to obtaining press cards,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “Freedom of the press is essential to our democracy, and we must strengthen news organizations’ independence and access for their crucial reporting.”

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.

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 to 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.

“The NYPD should not be in the business of deciding who gets to cover New York City government,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “We need to protect reporters and encourage free and open journalism right here in our great City. By moving these responsibilities to the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and giving anyone who is denied a press credential a recourse to air complaints we will be protecting democracy and doing right by the public. Thank you to Council Member Keith Powers for pushing this bill through and working to improve how New York City government treats journalists.”

“New Yorkers deserve to have the most accurate and up-to-date information from their local government, and this can only be achieved by preserving journalistic integrity,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “Reporters who cover city government deserve equal access to information from city agencies regardless of the stories they publish. We cannot allow internal agency bias to affect how our city allocates press credentials. I am happy to vote Aye on Introduction 2118 to make sure that press credentials are issued in an impartial fair way.”