A South Carolina lawmaker proposed a bill that, if passed, would require journalists to register with the state and pay a fee to do their jobs.
In addition to the fees, State Representative Michael Pitts (R-Laurens), who proposed the bill, also wants journalists to submit to a background check before being allowed to work in their chosen profession.
According to the report, Rep. Pitts’ idea behind the bill is to get people to:
“…Spur discussion about how the media treats second amendment rights, and some people think that’s a good idea.”
Scott Cramer, who commented on the WPDE Facebook page, wonders how Americans could believe that restricting journalists is unconstitutional when they believe that guns should be regulated.
For this reason, Rep. Pitts thinks South Carolina’s Secretary of State should keep the journalists’ registry to ensure the fees are paid. Those who work without registering would be subject to “fines and criminal penalties.”
According to WPDE, a journalism professor at Coastal Carolina University, Dr. Wendy Weinhold, said that journalists are indeed protected by the First Amendment. She said:
“A journalist is doing the job of a citizen and journalists need to be able to do that job freely and without the government imposing any kind of fine or fee simply related to the fact that they are working.”
She fears that lawmakers want to “define what a journalist is,” continuing that:
“There are a variety of people who could try to claim the definition of journalist. People with a Twitter account, people who do Instagram, people with a blog, [
Trying to make a journalist “accountable to the state” is inconceivable.
WPDE states that when they spoke to locals, those they spoke with say it doesn’t make sense why the state would try to regulate journalists. Generally, they believe journalists shouldn’t be regulated, and ought to be able to report on anything they please.
State Democrats agree, calling the proposal “dumb” and “unconstitutional.”
While this bill made it to a committee in 2016 in the South Carolina House of Representatives, it’s since stalled, with no date scheduled to vote on it yet.