State Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, filed a bill Tuesday in the S.C. House to establish a “responsible journalism registry” to be operated by the S.C. secretary of state.
That bill’s summary says the bill would “establish requirements for persons before working as a journalist for a media outlet and for media outlets before hiring a journalist.” The summary also includes registration fees, and sets fines and criminal penalties for violations.
A person seeking to register with the state as a journalist would have to submit a criminal record background check and “an affidavit from the media outlet attesting to the applicant’s journalistic competence.”
The proposed registry “is ridiculous and totally unconstitutional,” said Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association. The State newspaper is a member of the Press Association.
The government cannot require journalists to register, Rogers said, citing the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights, which ensures freedom of the press.
The bill is not a reaction to any particular news story, Pitts told The Post and Courier newspaper, but was intended to stimulate discussion over how he sees gun issues being reported.
“It strikes me as ironic that the first question is constitutionality from a press that has no problem demonizing firearms,” Pitts said. “With this statement I’m talking primarily about printed press and TV. The TV stations, the six o’clock news and the printed press has no qualms demonizing gun owners and gun ownership.”
Last summer, the former law enforcement officer opposed an ultimately successful push to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds following the slayings of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME in Charleston.