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article imageSC law would require journalists to register with the state

By Arthur Weinreb     Jan 20, 2016 in Politics
State Representative Mike Pitts (R) introduced a bill yesterday that would require journalists working in South Carolina to register with the state or face penalties.
Although the bill is not yet in final form, a summary has been provided by the lawmaker. According to the summary, anyone who wants to work as a journalist in South Carolina must register in order to do so. A "responsible journalist registry" would be established and run by the Secretary of State's Office. And of course, those who do register will have to pay a fee.
News organizations would be prohibited from hiring anyone unless that person has been approved by the state. And anyone who works as a journalist without having been approved would be subject to fines and criminal penalties, the latter presumably meaning jail.
Besides being known for his attempts to keep the Confederate flag flying on the statehouse, Pitts was the subject of an investigation of his campaign expenses by the Post and Courier newspaper.
Pitts told the newspaper, he is not a "press hater," nor was the idea for the bill the result of any press coverage about him. Rather, he introduced the "South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law" to begin a discussion about how the media treats gun control and the Second Amendment. Pitts said, "It strikes me as ironic that the first question is constitutionality from a press that has no difficulty demonizing firearms."
While the Washington Post describes Pitts' bill as "a naked attack on the First Amendment—you know, the one that says 'Congress shall make no law...abridging freedom of speech or of the press,'" Pitts, a former police officer who has been a state representative since 2003, knows it is unconstitutional. He is just trying to make a point and begin a discussion.
Pitts is not the only South Carolina legislator to introduce a bill just to make a point. Last December, Rep. Mia McLeod, a Democrat, introduced legislation to make it more difficult for men to get Viagra, Cialis, and other erectile dysfunction drugs. McLeod said she wanted to begin a discussion about the difficulties and delays women have in accessing abortion services in the state.
McLeod acknowledged her bill will not be passed into law. And there is virtually no chance Pitts' law to regulate journalists will pass.
More about Mike pitts, journalists forced to register, Freedom of the press, First amendment, south carolina responsible journalism registry law
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