McGuire’s Legislation, which Advances Some of America’s Toughest Freedom of the Press Protections, Becomes State Law | News
Sen. Mike McGuire’s legislation, which advances some of the strongest press freedom protections in the nation, was signed into law by Governor Newsom.
SB 98 was one of the most critical bills focused on First Amendment protections in any state legislature. The provisions of the new law will extend crucial protections to members of the press when entering and reporting on events protected by the First Amendment.
Freedom of the press is fundamental to our nation. It strengthens our democracy by providing transparency, overseeing government and informing our daily decisions. But that freedom is under attack here in the United States.
“There is no doubt about it, California now has some of the strictest protections in place for journalists compared to any other US state. We have seen an upsurge in violence and obstruction blatant acts against members of the press across the country and right here at home in the Golden State,” McGuire said. “This law will provide critical protections for the press when attending and reporting on First Amendment events. such as protests, marches, rallies and demonstrations. California is leading the way in ensuring that the freedom of the press and the First Amendment are protected and upheld at the highest level. I am grateful to Governor Newsom for his signature and to the hundreds of journalists and guild members who have mobilized across the state with the California News Publishers Association and the California Broadcasters Association, to ensure the success of SB 98.”
In 2020, more than 600 reported acts of aggression against reporters took place. Rubber bullets, tear gas and even detention cannot become the new normal for a vital pillar of our nation’s democracy. California must lead the way in protecting and upholding press rights and the First Amendment.
Currently, California law allows reporters and other members of the press to enter natural disaster emergency areas behind closed law enforcement lines – such as areas affected by fires, floods and earthquakes – to gather information to relay to the public. They can also go out during curfews in the event of a natural disaster. Until now, however, these essential protections did not expressly extend to First Amendment events such as demonstrations and marches.
SB 98 prohibits law enforcement officials from obstructing, detaining, assaulting, or otherwise preventing the press from fulfilling its constitutional mandate in reporting these events.
Additionally, the bill states that journalists can challenge their detention or lack of access by working with the law enforcement leadership on site. This provides a necessary safety net for journalists who are denied access or detained intentionally or by mistake.
Recent police action demonstrates that these statutory protections are essential to ensuring that our democratic system has access to newsworthy information to inform discussion of critical issues facing California and the nation.