RTDNA has joined the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and several other media organizations in calling on police in Willows, Calif., to protect a local newspaper editor and reporter who has received death threats during the past two months.
RTDNA and the other groups sent a letter to Willows Police Chief Jason Dahl urging him to direct his department to treat seriously threats received by the Sacramento Valley Mirror’s editor and reporter Larry Judkins, after the semiweekly publication published a series of stories this spring about local deaths.
Valley Mirror owner and writer Tim Crews expressed concern that police were not taking the threats seriously, which is what prompted RTDNA and the other groups to send the letter.
The Valley Mirror and Crews have a history of reporting stories that other media outlets don’t, or won’t, cover. According to a 2007 profile on SFGate.com, the paper and Crews have received both accolades, in the form of journalism awards, and intense criticism by some of the local public officials they have covered throughout the years.
“Any time attempts are made to silence the free press, including through threats and intimidation, they must be taken seriously. In an atmosphere of rising anti-press rhetoric, reporters must be protected. It is vital that the press be able to do its job and cover controversial issues and events without facing threats and intimidation from those seeking to silence them,” the letter states.
“The death threats against the staff of this small-town newspaper are part of an increasing pattern of anti-news media vitriol we are seeing all over the country,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Incoming Executive Director who spearheads RTDNA’s Voice of the First Amendment Task Force. The Task Force was formed earlier this year to defend against each and every threat to the First Amendment and news media access in today’s highly charged, divisive political and ideological atmosphere.
“Any time a journalist is obstructed, harassed, arrested, or assaulted merely for trying to fulfill his or her Constitutionally-guaranteed duty to gather and report facts in a responsible way, it’s not the journalist who is the true victim. It’s the public he or she serves,” said Shelley.
News organizations and others wishing to support the Voice of the First Amendment Task Force are urged to contact RTDNA at firstname.lastname@example.org. Broadcast and digital journalists, journalism educators, and journalism students are urged to become members of RTDNA to help support the efforts of RTDNA.