Senator  Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) amended one of his bills yesterday to protect journalists who are covering protests and demonstrations from being assaulted, arrested, or obstructed from gathering news during these events.

The bill, SB 629, would:

  • Allow a duly authorized member of the media to enter areas closed off to the public by first responders during a demonstration, march, protest or rally.
  • Create misdemeanor liability for a law enforcement officer who assaults a journalist or obstructs the journalist’s ability to gather or process news.
  • Create an accelerated process for a journalist to challenge being detained by an officer; and 
  • Create a rebuttable presumption that an individual who appears to be gathering or processing information or is carrying a press badge/credential is a duly authorized journalist as defined.

CNPA, California Black Media, La Opinion and the First Amendment Coalition submitted a letter yesterday in support of the measure. The California Broadcasters Association also submitted a letter of support.

The bill will likely be re-referred to the Assembly Public Safety Committee where it could be heard as early as the week the Assembly returns from its summer recess on July 13.