Lake County News, California – McGuire’s Bill to Advance Press Freedom Protection Becomes State Law
State Senator Mike McGuire’s Bill SB 98, which highlights some of the country’s toughest press freedom protections, was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday.
SB 98 was one of the most critical First Amendment protections bills moving forward in any state legislature.
The provisions of the new law will extend crucial protections to members of the press when they enter and report First Amendment protected events.
Freedom of the press is fundamental in the United States. It strengthens the nation’s democracy by ensuring transparency, monitoring the government and informing the day-to-day decisions of citizens.
But McGuire – whose district includes Lake County – said that freedom was under attack here in the United States.
“There’s no question California now has some of the toughest protections for journalists compared to any other state in the United States. We have seen an upsurge in blatant acts of violence and obstruction against members of the press across the country and right here in the Golden State, ”McGuire said. “This law will provide essential protections for the press when it attends and reports on First Amendment events such as protests, marches, rallies and protests.”
He added, “California is leading the way in ensuring freedom of the press and the First Amendment are protected and held to the highest level. I am grateful to Governor Newsom for his signing and to the hundreds of reporters and guild members who rallied across the state with the California News Publishers Association and the California Broadcasters Association, to make SB 98 a success.
In 2020, more than 600 reported acts of assault against journalists took place. Rubber bullets, tear gas and even detention cannot become the new normal for journalists.
McGuire said California must lead the way in protecting and defending press rights and the First Amendment.
Currently, California law allows journalists and other members of the press to enter emergency areas in the event of natural disasters behind closed law enforcement lines, such as areas affected by fires, floods and earthquakes, in order to collect information to transmit to the public. They can also go out during curfews in the event of a natural disaster.
Until now, these critical protections, however, did not expressly extend to First Amendment events such as protests and marches.
SB 98 prohibits law enforcement officials from obstructing, detaining, assaulting or otherwise preventing the press from fulfilling its constitutional mandate by reporting these events.
In addition, the bill obliges journalists to challenge their detention or lack of access by working with the direction of the police on the spot. This provides a necessary safety net for journalists who do not have access or who are detained intentionally or by mistake.
Recent police action demonstrates that these statutory protections are essential to ensuring our democratic system has access to newsworthy information to inform discussion of the critical issues facing California and the nation.