LOS ANGELES –Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion authored by Chair Hilda L. Solis, Supervisor to the First District, co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, to support Senate Bill 98 in its original form, without the amendment for press to enter into a closed area ‘with authorization from a commanding officer on scene’, which creates an additional barrier for the press.
“Residents across the State and County depend on journalists and reporters to provide accurate and timely information on current events,” shared Chair Solis. “It is only fitting that members of the press be allowed to conduct coverage of an incident or event without facing harassment by law enforcement. SB98 in its original form, without the amendment, can protect the press from law enforcement interference and harassment during constitutionally protected activities.”
In the past year there were several high-profile cases of journalists in Los Angeles County who were physically assaulted, detained or arrested despite the right of the media to report on these incidents—one example is Josie Huang, an award-winning journalist for NPR affiliate KPCC and LAist. After sustained support from press stakeholders and the filing of this motion to oppose the bill unless amended, the authors of the bill, Senators McGuire and Portantino issued a press release last Friday, stating they would remove the amendment so that it reflects the original bill language.
“SB 98 is important and timely legislation that ensures safe access for journalists to cover protests and demonstrations,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “We live in a restive moment when many Americans, concerned about longstanding injustices, are taking their concerns to the streets, and it is critical that the press be allowed to do its job free of harassment so that the public can have access to complete and accurate information.”
In response to incidents of law enforcement harassing the press, Senator McGuire with co-authors Senators Gonzalez, Portantino, and Wiener and Assembly Members Carrillo and Wicks put forward Senate Bill 98 to allow a “duly authorized representative of any news service, online news service…be allowed to enter those closed areas” at a demonstration, march, protest…and it would “prohibit a peace officer or other law enforcement officer from intentionally assaulting, interfering with, or obstructing” a “duly authorized representative” who is “gathering, receiving…for communication to the public.”
“Police treatment of working journalists across California and in Los Angeles County has deteriorated over the past two years and become untenable,” said Matt Pearce, president of Media Guild of the West, a News Guild-CWA local that represents journalists at the Los Angeles Times and several other in newsrooms in Southern California, Arizona and Texas. “It’s time for a law that will protect working journalists and the public’s right to know. I thank Supervisor Solis and Supervisor Kuehl for their attention to this issue and for supporting a stronger SB 98.”
The passage of this motion directs the Los Angeles County’s Sacramento Advocates to support Senate Bill 98 only if, amended to remove reference to “with authorization from a commanding officer on scene” from Section 1 of the California Penal Code 409.7, subsection a, subsubsection 1.
To view the full motion, click here.