Obstruction of Journalism

Denver Law Review, Vol. 99, Pp. 407-452, 2022.

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 2406

47 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2021 Last revised: 28 Jul 2022

See all articles by Erin Carroll

Erin Carroll

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: October 18, 2021


Identifying oneself as press used to be a near-grant of immunity. It meant safer passage through all manner of dangerous terrain. But today, being recognizable as a journalist may be more likely to make one a target.

Physical attacks against journalists in the United States increased nearly 1,300 percent in 2020. The rate of online violence against journalists is also soaring. This violence is aimed almost entirely at women, people of color, non-Christians, and non-straight journalists. It silences voices already relegated to the edges. Rather than letting our national conversation branch, the violence attempts to shear it to a white, male, Christian, and straight trunk.

At its core, democracy requires that new voices can be heard so that stock stories—and the hierarchies they support—do not become entrenched. Journalists tell us these new stories about ourselves and our communities—stories that bring us into conversation with one another and help us to self-govern. Given this, violence against journalists is an assault on freedom of expression and democracy itself. And it is continuing with impunity.

To address the systemic harm caused by the violence, this Article proposes a federal “obstruction of journalism” statute modeled on the obstruction of justice ones. Obstruction of justice is aimed at preserving the effective functioning of our justice system by criminalizing threats against that system. Likewise, obstruction of journalism would criminalize physical violence and particularly severe threats against reporters with the aim of protecting journalism, another system integral to a functioning democracy.

Keywords: Press, Violence, First Amendment

Suggested Citation

Carroll, Erin, Obstruction of Journalism (October 18, 2021). Denver Law Review, Vol. 99, Pp. 407-452, 2022., Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 2406, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3921256 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3921256

Erin Carroll (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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