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Letter: New rule would stifle the free press

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, New York, on Jan. 13, 2016. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The New York State Joint Comission on Public Ethics recently passed a measure requiring public relations professionals who speak to editorial boards on government matters to register as lobbyists [“PR firm registration assailed,” News, Jan. 27].

This is a stealth measure to intervene in the constitutionally protected relationship between the press and the public, and we have asked that the commission immediately rescind this untoward regulation. This tactic will give government officials and administrators an illegitimate right to monitor the conversations and interviews between journalists and sources. Clearly, it is an offense against the rights of the public and press under the First Amendment.

The commission’s position that the requirement will generate transparency in the activities of paid media consultants is legitimate when consultants promote the interests of their clients to elected officials. But the press needs no such paternal protections as it seeks the truth. The press has been capable of doing its work for centuries. More significant, it must continue to be able to do so if we are to protect an unfettered press and the public’s right to know.

If the commission does not remove this regulation, we call on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature to step in and reverse this overreach.

Carolyn James, Bay Shore and Chris Vaccaro, Lake Grove

Editor’s note: The writers are, respectively, the chair of the New York State Freedom of Information Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists and the president of the Press Club of Long Island.

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