MRE Statement Opposing Press Restrictions in Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 15, 2020–

Statement from MRE President John M. Donnelly on behalf of the MRE board:

The Military Reporters & Editors association strongly opposes efforts by Senate leaders to restrict reporters on their side of the U.S. Capitol during the upcoming impeachment trial.

MRE members cover defense issues wherever they arise–at the Pentagon, at military bases at home and abroad, in conflict zones, and in the Congress. We must continue to do so even during the impeachment trial, just as our fellow reporters who cover any other public issue–whether it is impeachment or energy–must continue to cover senators.

Yet the restrictions under consideration would limit the movements of reporters trying to speak with senators in one of the only venues where journalists are able to easily do so: in Senate hallways.

The proposal also would require reporters to undergo a magnetometer sweep to check for electronic devices before entering the gallery above the Senate floor, even though reporters voluntarily relinquish devices every day as it is before entering the chamber without the need for stop-and-search surveillance. The magnetometers’ use would severely limit reporters’ ability to move around as they cover fast-moving events.

These proposed restrictions would almost certainly make it much harder for reporters to do their jobs. And the additional controls are not necessary for safety’s sake.

They also may send a misleading signal that reporters are some kind of threat.

More security may well be required during the impeachment trial, but it should not come at the expense of the press access that the public has a right to. A balance is well struck every day in the Capitol on that score. There is no need to mess with it.

The military personnel that we at MRE have covered in combat–and continued to report on after they came home–made countless sacrifices, and some paid the ultimate price, on the battlefield. Their families also gave and gave.

They did so to defend our country‚Äôs values, including our Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects our rights to expression, including press freedom.

No chipping away at those freedoms is acceptable, especially not during an important hour in our history and not in the heart of our democratic capital.