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NAB’s Smith: Capitol Riot Stresses Need for Transparency, Security for Press

Capitol riots
(Image credit: Getty Images)

WASHINGTON—Following the Capitol riots that took place on Jan. 6, NAB’s Gordon Smith believes that law enforcement has a responsibility to be both more transparent with the American people, but also to provide greater security assistance for press as they prepare to cover the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

Smith shared his views on the events of Jan. 6 and news coverage moving forward—for which he brings a unique perspective as both a former U.S. senator and the current president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters—in a blog post on The Hill.

First, Smith commended the work done by journalists on-site of the Capitol riots and in covering the aftermath. However, he believes that law enforcement has failed in their responsibility in providing transparency.

“The work of the press to keep the American public informed during these dark times has been admirable, valuable and—because of an unacceptable and alarming lack of information provided by law enforcement agencies—necessary,” Smith wrote.

He criticized the U.S. Capitol Police, FBI, Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security for their lack of in-person briefings to answer questions and explain their findings from investigations on the riots. He noted that it was a full week before the first press conference by law enforcement on the attack.

“At a time when our democracy has been shaken to its core, this lack of transparency is inexcusable,” he continued.

The press, Smith pointed out, has been the one to report the FBI warning about armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in D.C. in the days leading up to the inauguration.

With social media posts on pages organizing these potential protests labeling reporters that will cover these events as “soft targets”—members of the media were intimidated and harassed during the Capitol riots—Smith also stressed the need for law enforcement to provide security briefings for media in order to best keep them safe.

“Jan. 6 was a new day of infamy in the chronicle of American history,” Smith wrote. “Yet, the press did not relent in the face of danger, and we are grateful to the dedicated journalists who risked their lives to cover this monumental story. Now, as journalists prepare to cover additional protests, it is of supreme importance that law enforcement equip them with the necessary tools and information to stay out of harm’s way while doing their jobs during these dangerous times.”

The full post is available on The Hill