The First Amendment Coalition supports a California bill that would help ensure members of the news media covering protests are protected from physical assault, arrest, or obstruction of their news gathering activities by law enforcement agencies.
FAC, together with the California News Publisher’s Association, California Black Media, Ethnic Media Services and ImpreMedia, submitted a letter in support of Senate Bill 629, which as amended on June 25, 2020, would:
- ensure an authorized member of the media may enter areas closed off by first responders during a demonstration, march, protest or rally;
- create misdemeanor liability for an officer who assaults a journalist or obstructs their ability to gather or process news;
- create an accelerated process for a journalist to challenge being detained by an officer; and
- create a rebuttable presumption that an individual who appears to be gathering or processing information or is carrying a press badge/credential is a duly authorized journalist as defined.
“In a turbulent and troubled time and with an abundance of misinformation flooding information channels, journalists need to be able to gather and report facts without having to fear that they will be shot at or arrested by law enforcement officers simply because they are trying to provide context and help us all understand the significance of these events,” the organizations wrote to State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, who introduced the measure. “Police attacks on journalists are what we expect from third world countries. “SB 629 would make clear that it is the policy of this state that assaults and obstructions designed to prevent the constitutionally protected free flow of information to Californians will not be tolerated.”