After Journalist Arrests, State Legislation Aims to Protect Reporter Access to Protests

Police form a line around a small group of protesters and one journalist held on the scene in what officers called a “mass arrest” on June 3, 2020.

Laura Wenus/San Francisco Public Press

Police form a line around a small group of protesters and one journalist held on the scene in what officers called a “mass arrest” on June 3, 2020.

Disclaimer: Laura Wenus is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, which opposed an amendment to SB 98 that is now slated for removal.

Freedom of information advocates and journalists have criticized a number of instances in which law enforcement officers arrested, detained or even injured reporters at work covering protests in California. In response, state Sen. Mike McGuire authored SB 98, which aims to codify journalists’ right to access demonstrations. As the proposal makes its way through the Legislature, David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, discusses the context for the bill and some of the ways in which current protections for journalists fall short.

“I would urge people to get past the notion that it’s just about the images that ultimately end up on the television or the audio that ultimately ends up on the radio or the photos that end up in the newspaper. The reporter’s presence at an event like that is essential to their ability to understand what happened, because that is where they’re going to be able to talk to people who have been involved in the protest, they’re going to be able to talk to police officers, they’re going to be able to talk to business owners who have been affected. It’s only through various interactions that something like a full picture can begin to form.”

— David Snyder

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