Poison Pill Threatens Good Legislation

At least 322 journalists have been assaulted, 122 have been arrested or detained and more than 980 have reported press freedoms violations since the beginning of the year, according to the US Press Freedom Tracker.

First Amendment Groups and Journalists in California were encouraged when state Senator Mike McGuire reintroduced SB 98 last year following a veto by the governor the year before. The bill would invoke additional protections from law enforcement for journalists attending demonstrations, marches, protests and rallies.

According to Senator McGuire, “It’s going to prohibit law enforcement officers from obstructing, detaining, assaulting or otherwise preventing the press, from fulfilling their constitutional mandate.”

But a poison pill in the form of an amendment was introduced in the Appropriations Committee that undermines the intent of McGuire’s bill: an amendment which would give on-scene police commanders the authority to arbitrarily limit press freedom at such incidents based on his, her or their sole, unappealable discretion.

“It is just that sort of situation that led to at least three dozen cases within the past year alone of journalists being detained, arrested or injured by law enforcement officers while those journalists lawfully were performing their duties,” reports rights organization Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA).

Dan McCrory is NWU’s Political Editor.