We’d like to take a point of privilege to address legislation of particular importance to news reporters like those at the Tribune and across the state. Two bills have been on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.
First, we’d like to thank the governor for signing Senate Bill 98 on Saturday. It will clarify the rights of journalists at protest scenes across California. It would prohibit officers from assaulting, interfering with or obstructing a journalist who is covering a protest or demonstration for the benefit of a more informed populace. It also allows a journalist who has been detained to speak to a supervisor immediately to quickly challenge detention and avoid being hauled off to jail on the spot. It is similar to existing laws that allow reporters at fire scenes.
Why now? The events of the last year crystalized the need for some protection. More than 50 journalists in California reported being targeted by law enforcement in 2020 and, according to the First Amendment Coalition, a disproportionate number of them were people of color.
SB 98 has the support of the First Amendment Coalition, the California News Publishers Association and other media organizations.
Lastly, we would also like to urge support for SB 16, which would expand access to records relating to excessive force complaints against officers, unlawful arrest and other misconduct. There is simply no reason why public employees with guns should be allowed to conduct their business in the dark.
To urge the governor to sign this important bill, visit https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/. Thank you.
Clay Lambert is the editorial director of the Pacifica Tribune.