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Bill would make journalists protected workers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A week after terrorists stormed the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, several members of the West Virginia House of Delegates introduced a bill that would create harsher penalties for violent crimes against journalists.

Bill sponsors brought up the attack on Bob Aaron, a WCHS reporter who was hit with his own tripod in July, as evidence journalists are targeted here in the United States as well.

Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, is the lead sponsor on what delegates are calling the “Bob Aaron Bill.”

It would add journalists to a list of protected workers, which currently includes governmental representatives, health-care providers and emergency medical service personnel. Those who attack protected workers are subject to minimum sentencing standards for those convicted of assault or battery, a longer minimum sentencing guideline for malicious assault, and higher fines.

“It’s a small bill,” Guthrie said. “It just expands coverage to members of the fourth estate.”

Guthrie, a former journalist, said that she wanted to include journalists as a protected class with government officials because both crafting legislation and reporting the news are services to the public…

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