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Reporters Committee urges California governor to sign bill protecting journalists at protests

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  1. Newsgathering

Update: On Oct. 9, 2021, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed S.B. 98 into law.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is urging California Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign S.B. 98, a bill that would codify important constitutional protections for newsgathering and safeguard journalists’ right of access to protest scenes.

The Reporters Committee backed a similar bill, S.B. 629, in 2020, which Newsom ultimately vetoed. The letter explains that California legislators have carefully addressed the concerns Newsom raised while ensuring that S.B. 98 will provide journalists with the protections they need while covering important public gatherings.

As the Reporters Committee has documented, “protests have long been one of the most dangerous places for journalists to report the news.” S.B. 98 would help address a shocking rise in arrests and violence in those settings by clarifying that journalists have a right to access protest scenes; by prohibiting law enforcement officers from intentionally assaulting or obstructing individuals engaged in newsgathering; and by underlining that reporters cannot be cited for failure to disperse or obstruction for being where they need to be to do their jobs.