On July 8, 2020, the Reporters Committee urged California’s governor to take immediate steps to end police attacks on journalists and to exempt media from all future curfew orders.
The letter, co-signed by 52 news organizations, called on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to advise the state’s mayors and police chiefs to implement concrete steps to prevent further arrests and violence. The coalition emphasized that police who attack or arrest journalists for doing their job are violating the First Amendment.
Press freedom violations have increased with nationwide protests over police violence and racial injustice following the May 26 murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer.
In California, among other incidents, a police officer in Los Angeles shoved and tripped a photojournalist covering a protest, causing the journalist to hit her head on a fire hydrant. Another reporter was shot with a rubber bullet while holding her press badge above her head.
“The challenges that officers face in policing during times of civil protest do not supersede any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” the coalition’s letter states, “and moments of crisis demand that we protect the bedrock American ideal of a free press even more zealously.”
The letter recognized the efforts of a number of local leaders in denouncing and calling for investigations into harassment and assaults of journalists in California.
The letter to California’s governor follows similar letters that the Reporters Committee sent to officials in Minnesota, New York City and Denver, which have also seen attacks on the free press during recent protests.