Senator McGuire’s bill to protect press and journalists from being intentionally attacked and detained passes Assembly committee

Monday, August 10, 2020

Sacramento, CA – Freedom of the press is one of the foundations upon which America was born. In 2020, that freedom has been under attack more than ever before. 

According to the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists, there have been approximately 600 incidents in the United States of reported aggressions against the press in the last several months. These aggressions include detainments, arrests and attacks against members of the press attempting to do their jobs at First Amendment protests, marches and events.

During protests this year, reporters have been hit by rubber bullets, struck with batons, sprayed with tear gas, and detained by law enforcement, all while performing their critical role of documenting and informing the public of current events. 

Senator McGuire’s legislation, SB 629, which will enhance and extend access and protections to members of the media who are attending demonstrations in order to gather vital information, passed another hurdle last week with a 7-0 vote in the Assembly Public Safety Committee. 

“Members of the press risk their personal health and safety each time they attend protests or rallies to get the public the information they need and deserve. Rubber bullets, tear gas, and even detainment cannot be the new norm for an essential pillar of our nation’s democracy. California must lead the way to ensure the right of the press and the First Amendment are protected and held to the highest standard,” Senator McGuire said. “SB 629 - The Press Freedom Act - will help ensure journalists can perform these critical roles while being protected under the law from any law enforcement officer intentionally assaulting, obstructing or interfering with their duties while they are gathering the news.” 

While California law allows reporters and members of the press to enter natural disaster emergency areas for the purpose of gathering information, these protections do not extend to first amendment protests, marches or events. SB 629 provides these protections.

The legislation is supported by the California News Publisher’s Association, The California Broadcasters Association, California Black Media, Impremedia, Ethnic Media Services and the First Amendment Coalition. 

The legislation is co-authored by: Senators Dodd, Hertzberg, Hill, Wiener, Gonzalez, Portantino and Skinner and Assemblymember Wicks.

SB 629 will move to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, then to the Assembly floor for a full vote later this month.