NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · CALIFORNIA · Newsgathering · Sep. 21, 2005
Inmate-access and anti-paparazzi bills sent to governor
Sep. 21, 2005 · Two media-related bills — one permitting inmate interviews with the press and the other tripling the amount in damages that can be awarded in cases where assault is committed with the intent to capture a visual image — are awaiting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature.
Under two identical bills that passed the California Senate and Assembly last week — Senate Bill 239 and Assembly Bill 698 — the Department of Corrections must permit journalists, with reasonable notice, to interview a prisoner in person if the inmate consents.
Journalists would be permitted to use needed materials including pens, pencils, papers and audio- and video-recording devices, but the items could be searched for “the purpose of protecting against an immediate and direct threat to the security of the institution,” according to the bill.
Similar bills have been vetoed in the past because of concern from victims, according to the California Newspaper Publishers Association. The bill requires a warden or his or her designee to notify victims of inmates when interview requests are granted if the victims have specified that they would like to be notified, CNPA reported in its legislative bulletin last week.
The bill also includes a measure prohibiting retaliation against an inmate for agreeing to and participating in an interview with a representative of the news media.
A representative is defined in the bill as “a journalist who works for, or is under contract to, a newspaper, magazine, wire service, book publisher, or radio or television program, or station or who, through press passes issued by a government or police agency, or through similar convincing means, can demonstrate that he or she is a bona fide journalist engaged in the gathering of information for distribution to the public.”
Final amendments to the bill removed the ability of an inmate to request an interview and eliminated the exchange of confidential correspondence between inmates and journalists, CNPA reported.
It is not known whether Gov. Schwarzenegger will sign the bill, said Malaki Seku-Amen, capitol director for Assemblyman Ray Haynes, author of the Assembly Bill.
“It’s on the governor’s desk and he has until Oct. 9 to go either way,” Seku-Amen said.
Also awaiting the governor’s signature is Assembly Bill 381, which would triple the amount in damages that can be awarded in cases where assault was committed with the intent to capture any type of visual image. Tagged as an “anti-paparazzi” bill, it adjusts damage amounts that can be determined under an existing law.
A third media-related measure, Resolution 31, which “would respectfully urge the Congress of the United States to enact a shield law for America’s journalists,” was temporarily tabled and is being held in the Senate Rules Committee until the Legislature reconvenes in January.