Governor Newsom signs bill to secure press freedom in California
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Journalists in Southland applaud Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of Senate Bill 98, which exempts media professionals from complying with police dispersal orders while covering protests, marches and other types of events.
“The media have documented more than 50 incidents of journalists injured, detained or arrested over a 12-month period,” the Greater Los Angeles section of the Society of Professional Journalists said in a statement on Saturday. “The SPJ / LA saw SB 98 as a necessary step to protect coverage of the protests by ensuring that journalists can continue to cover an area after an illegal gathering is declared.
The organization worked with a coalition of more than 20 other journalism organizations, media unions and advocacy groups to establish a coalition, which then “spent months educating state lawmakers” of the urgent need to “protect the media. freedom of the press in California “.
The coalition said, for example, that “the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of illegal assembly orders has expanded dramatically with little oversight,” particularly in the months since police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, which drew thousands of people to the streets to protest.
“Our section has been frustrated by the number of incidents in which police have arrested, detained or mistreated journalists who are simply trying to do their job,” said Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins, SPJ / LA vice president. “We decided earlier this year that we must join forces with other journalism groups to demand substantive change – seeking legislation that will hopefully prevent such incidents from happening in the future. “
According to his office, Newsom signed the bill on Saturday as one of his final decisions for the state’s 2021 legislative season.
The law states that “law enforcement officials must not intentionally assault, obstruct or obstruct journalists” covering protest demonstrations and other civic actions and prohibits officers from citing journalists for non-dispersal, violation or interference if the journalist is only collecting, receiving or processing information.
The bill had faced opposition from the California Police Chiefs Association and other law enforcement groups, which supported a last-minute effort to add an amendment requiring journalists to demand the authorization from a police commander before entering closed areas around demonstrations. The amendment was eventually dropped.
“Today # SB98 was enacted, ensuring journalists can cover demonstrations and illegal gatherings in California,” tweeted reporter Adam Rose. “As a longtime civics nerd, this was my first DEEP trip to a fascinating legislative process. And you know what? It worked. But only because of a LOT of wonderful people.”
Frank Stoltze, reporter for LAist.com and KPCC, called it a “victory … for journalists covering the protests.”
“I am very proud of the Californian journalists who worked hard to make # SB98 a reality,” freelance journalist Rebecca Aguilar tweeted. “Thanks, @GavinNewsom, @SPJLA you are the best!”
SPJ representatives pledged to “continue to work with the coalition on policies and strategies that ensure journalists on the ground succeed in spreading the story and providing critical information to the public.”