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Reporters Committee supports California bill that would protect journalists covering protests

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  1. Newsgathering

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press supports a bill in the California state legislature that would protect journalists covering protests from law enforcement intentionally assaulting, interfering with or obstructing their newsgathering activities.

In a letter sent to California lawmakers on July 24, 2020, the Reporters Committee expressed its support for SB 629, which is currently under consideration in the California legislature. The bill would strengthen protections for the press to gather and disseminate newsworthy information, and would take concrete steps to prevent California law enforcement from arresting or assaulting journalists.

The legislation would also allow journalists to enter closed areas during protests to gather and report the news. Additionally, the proposed legislation would prohibit journalists from being cited for a curfew or a failure-to-disperse violation while in that closed area.

“These attacks endanger the press and threaten the essential role that journalists play in safeguarding constitutional rights by informing the public and the electorate,” the Reporters Committee letter states. “SB 629 would make it clear that any future arrests or assaults of journalists reporting on public protests will not be tolerated in the state of California.”

In early July, the Reporters Committee sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom urging him to take immediate steps to end police attacks on journalists and to exempt the media from all future curfew orders. The letter, co-signed by 52 news organizations, followed an increase in press freedom violations during nationwide protests over police violence and racial injustice in the wake of the May 26 murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer.

Read the full Reporters Committee letter.