On Thursday, June 3, California State Senator Scott Wiener called on the Assembly to strip an amendment inserted by the Senate Appropriations Committee which makes it harder for journalists to cover events without a commanding officer’s authorization.
Society of Professional Journalists Greater Los Angeles (SPJ/LA) and a broad coalition of journalism groups voiced their strong opposition against an amendment made to SB-98, titled Public peace: media access.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Mike McGuire was originally intended to protect journalists from arrest while covering protests, until May 20, 2021, the Senate Appropriations Committee added an amendment that required journalists to obtain authorization of a police commander to work from closed areas near protests, marches, demonstrations, or rallies.
This restraint doesn’t exist currently under state law and conflicts with the First Amendment.
California Journalists made clear they “do not enter this political debate lightly,” and have observed over the past two years working conditions for California journalists have “steadily deteriorated” as many of their newspaper, television, radio, digital, freelance and student media colleagues covering protests — such as the protest at Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles on March 25 — have been arrested, detained or assaulted by law enforcement while on the job.
GRAPHIC photos/videos related to recent attacks on California journalists provided by Coalition of Independent California and National Organizations.
On June 2, the vote in favor of the bill had 31 democratic votes and three republican votes. Two Republicans voted against the bill while four senators did not vote.