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First Amendment Network

logo with FAN acronym in large type, the words First Amendment Network below it and then the NFPW logo below that.

The First Amendment to the
United States Constitution

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Get involved . . . and sign up!

We encourage all NFPW members to join FAN—no cost—and receive our FAN alerts. Then you make the decision if you choose to take action. The more voices we have championing First Amendment issues the stronger the barrier against those forces seeking to weaken these precious freedoms.

If you're not an NFPW member, but wish to join FAN, please contact Marsha Shuler, our FAN director, at marshashuler@yahoo.com.

NFPW continually works on the behalf of all Americans to protect First Amendment rights. These are just a few of our activities:

FAN Network—NFPW's First Amendment Network (FAN) is an innovative grassroots e-mail alert system that notifies FAN members when issues need action. Members then can respond to the appropriate congressional office or federal agency seeking comments. We, as an organization, can pass resolutions, but oftentimes it is individual responses that capture decision-makers' attention. We provide our members with information sheets so they know what is at stake.

Congressional Research Service reports—NFPW fights to make Congressional Research Service reports more broadly available online. It is important that the public have access to information on how their government works and to studies that show how well that government is serving the public.

Freedom of Information—FAN keeps our members up to date on problems involving access to government records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A recent alert advised of changes the Bush administration made aimed at speeding up records requests made by the public, media and others. The names of FOIA contacts in charge of policing the system have been posted.

Sunshine Week—NFPW also participates in Sunshine Week, an annual event that heightens awareness of First Amendment issues.

Shield Law—Another top priority is adoption of a federal Shield Law. What is the Shield Law? Douglas Lee, attorney for Ehrmann Gehlback Badger & Lee, writing for the First Amendment Center, explained:

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in Branzburg v. Hayes that "news gathering is not without First Amendment protections." The justices, however, could not agree about the form or breadth of those protections. As a result, no nationally recognized newsgatherer's privilege exists. Instead, the protections currently in place for newsgatherers are set forth in a patchwork of inconsistent court decisions and state statutes.

Newsgatherers—a term that includes reporters, authors and television producers—often are subpoenaed to provide information in criminal and civil court proceedings. In some cases, the information sought is the identity of a confidential source. In others, the subpoenaing party seeks a reporter's notes, video outtakes or other unpublished information. And in others, the newsgatherer is subpoenaed to testify about a crime or other event he or she witnessed.

Newsgatherers seek protection from these subpoenas for a variety of reasons. If newsgatherers cannot guarantee the confidentiality promised to some sources, they say, those sources will refuse to provide information that often is critical to important investigative reporting. Newsgatherers also claim that requests for nonconfidential, unpublished information interfere in news gathering by making them investigative arms of the government and by forcing them to spend time and money in court proceedings. Newsgatherers also cite the potential abuse they would suffer if litigants unhappy with a story or a book could routinely subpoena them to appear in court.

For more information on the Shield Law, contact firstamendmentcenter.org

NFPW joins coalition to address First Amendment concerns over National Forest Service proposal

Download the complete document (PDF)

JOINT COMMENTS OF INTERESTED MEDIA ORGANIZATIONS AND COMPANIES

The National Federation of Press Women joined other professional organizations in commenting on the proposed National Forest Service restrictions on filming and photography.

A portion of the comment states: The coalition of media groups listed below appreciate the opportunity to submit our comments in order to address the specific First Amendment-based concerns regarding the Forest Service proposal to incorporate interim directive (ID) 2709.11-2013.1 into Forest Service Handbook (FSH) 2709.11, chapter 40 to make permanent guidance for the evaluation of proposals for still photography and commercial filming on National Forest System Lands. While such guidance is intended to create consistent national criteria to evaluate requests for special use permits related to still photography and commercial filming in congressionally designated wilderness areas, we are gravely concerned that, as written, the final directive will still allow for uncertainty in the permitting process which, in turn, leads to abridgements of the First Amendment rights of the public and the press, some of which were identified in a letter sent to Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell on October 1, 2014 by several of those participating in these comments and others.

We are a coalition of media groups. Some of our organizations are membership organizations, with members including individual journalists, photojournalists, video producers, radio producers, as well as their editors, directors, publishers or corporate entities. Others are media outlets and organizations. Still others are non-member organizations who represent the interests of publications and outlets. All of us are dedicated to exercising and protecting our First Amendment rights as Americans to gather information and images related to matters of public concern and to communicate them to a larger public. We all feel strongly that the management, use, and enjoyment of public lands and resources should be subject to unfettered media coverage and public discussion.

Many of these organizations and/or the entities they represent also engage in significant coverage of issues regarding public lands and the outdoors. Therefore, we share the Forest Service's interest in ensuring the continued enjoyment of these areas and their resources by all.

Organizations in our coalition include: American Society of Media Photographers, American Society of News Editors, Associated Press Media Editors, Associated Press Photo Managers, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, Digital Media Licensing Association, National Federation of Press Women, National Press Photographers Association, Newspaper Association of America, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press, Society of Environmental Journalists, Society of Professional Journalists, The National Press Club, and White House News Photographers Association.

For questions about First Amendment Network, contact NFPW co-leads Marsha Shuler or Angela Smith.

NFPW Resolution On Violence Against Journalists

What are those First Amendment rights?

Glad you asked! Just to refresh your memory, they are:

  • Freedom of the press
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom to assemble
  • Freedom to petition the government

September 7, 2014
Greenville, South Carolina

WHEREAS, being a journalist in places of world conflict means putting one's life in danger every day for informing the public;

And whereas, the imprisonment, torture and execution of American and international journalists in recent months shocks the conscience and compels the condemnation by all in the civilized world of those who target journalists for doing their jobs;

And whereas 34 journalists have been killed just in 2014, including Steven Sotloff and James Foley, victims of the terrorist group ISIS;

And whereas the role of journalists in explaining the disputes and grievances that lead to conflict and violence is an indispensable ingredient for world justice and peace;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW) abhors all violence against working journalists and calls upon the nations of the world to recognize freedom of the press and the transparency it provides.