RTDNF to Present Congressman Eric Swalwell Award for Defending the First Amendment

March 1, 2018 11:00


WASHINGTON – The Radio Television Digital News Foundation has announced that Rep. Eric Swalwell will receive its First Amendment Defender Award on March 8 at the 28th Annual First Amendment Awards in Washington.

In February, Swalwell, from California’s 15th Congressional District, introduced the Journalist Protection Act. The proposed bill would make it a “federal crime to intentionally cause bodily injury to a journalist affecting interstate or foreign commerce in the course of reporting or in a manner designed to intimidate him or her from newsgathering for a media organization.”

“This year, more than in any of the 27 years prior in which we have presented our First Amendment Awards, it is essential that we honor those that have distinguished themselves as defenders of the First Amendment and public’s need to know,” said Dan Shelley, executive director of RTDNA/RTDNF. “In a climate where journalists have targets on their backs just for doing their jobs responsibly, Rep. Swalwell has taken a very public stand in support of press freedom. This award acknowledges his courage in standing up to hate and violence.”

In a
 news release announcing the legislation, which was filed with 12 co-sponsors, Swalwell said the bill is a direct result of what he characterized as President Trump’s creation of “a climate of extreme hostility to the press by describing mainstream media outlets as ‘a stain on America,’ ‘trying to take away our history and our heritage,’ and ‘the enemy of the American People.’”
According to the
 U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which RTDNA is a founding partner, there were 44 physical attacks on journalists across the country in 2017. Thirty of those assaults occurred while journalists were covering protests and two came at the hands of politicians.
While RTDNA is generally opposed to singling out news professionals, “Unfortunately, the times in which we now live make such a law necessary and we are grateful to Rep. Swalwell and his co-sponsors for their efforts,” said Shelley.

Eric Swalwell was elected in 2012 to represent California’s Fifteenth Congressional District, which includes a large part of the East Bay near San Francisco, and is now in his third term.

Congressman Swalwell serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; the Subcommittee on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), responsible for the oversight, policy, activities, and budget of the CIA; and the House Judiciary Committee. 

He is co-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and chairs the Future Forum. 

In his first term, Congressman Swalwell co-founded the bipartisan United Solutions Caucus to bring new Members together. In his second term, Swalwell cofounded the bipartisan Sharing Economy Caucus.

Representative Swalwell joins a distinguished group of honorees for this year’s event, including:

  • "Meet the Press" with Chuck Todd, NBC - First Amendment Award
  • Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC - Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award
  • David Rhodes, CBS News - First Amendment Service Award
  • Gretchen Carlson - First Amendment Leadership Award
  • Robin Roberts, ABC News - Lifetime Achievement Award

The black-tie event, hosted this year by Master of Ceremonies Margaret Brennan, moderator of CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” is the Foundation’s annual fundraiser in support of its ongoing work to promote and protect journalism through training, scholarships and education.



RTDNF, a 501(c)3 educational foundation, was created to help RTDNA members embody and uphold the standards of ethical journalism and promote leadership in the newsroom. The Foundation works for an America in which the press is able to hold the powerful to account, shine a light on corruption and act a catalyst for positive change in local communities without denial of access, undue restriction or fear of attack. We train and equip local journalists and journalism students to know their rights and seek and report truth ethically – upholding your right to know.

RTDNF thanks our sponsors, including CBS News, NBC News, MSNBC and Know Your Value, CNN, Hearst Television, ABC News, CNN Newsource, Nexstar, Rock'n Robin Productions and TEGNA, for their support of RTDNF and the First Amendment Awards