New year to bring protections against arrest of journalists covering protests

On Jan. 1, 2022, new legal protections against arrest go into effect for journalists covering protests and similar activities in the state of California. This is thanks to Senate Bill 98, which was passed and signed into law after an unprecedent advocacy effort by dozens of journalist-serving organizations, including our union, Pacific Media Workers Guild. We achieved this success in partnership with our sister local, Media Guild of the West and a coalition of first amendment advocates named below.

During the legislative process, and since passage, multiple law enforcement entities have asked who qualifies as a journalist, or specifically who qualifies as a “duly authorized representative” under the new law.

To answer that question, a group of First Amendment and media law attorneys, along with representatives of multiple journalist organizations, have collaborated to create a guide for law enforcement, newsrooms, and other interested parties on how to adhere to California Penal Code §409.7 (created by SB 98).

The memo was written, advised, and/or supported by the following attorneys, who regularly practice First Amendment and media law:

● Susan Seager, Adjunct Clinical Professor of Law, UC Irvine Law School (principal author)
● Peter Eliasberg, Chief Counsel/Manheim Family Attorney for First Amendment Rights, ACLU Foundation of Southern California
● Zoë McKinney, Staff Attorney, ACLU Foundation of Southern California
● Kelly Aviles, General Counsel, Californians Aware
● Brittney Barsotti, General Counsel, California News Publishers Association
● David Snyder, Executive Director, First Amendment Coalition
● Mickey H. Osterreicher, General Counsel, National Press Photographers Association

Along with a broad coalition of journalist associations and labor unions, many of these attorneys were also involved with passage of Senate Bill 98 and gained unique perspective on the legislature’s intent. The memo was completed November 3, 2021. Several of the coalition organizations have endorsed the memo as of November 9, 2021:

● Asian American Journalist Association, Los Angeles
● California News Publishers Association
● Californians Aware
● First Amendment Coalition
● Los Angeles Press Club
● Media Alliance
● Media Guild of the West, The NewsGuild-CWA Local 39213
● National Association of Black Journalists of Los Angeles
● National Association of Hispanic Journalists
● National Press Photographers Association
● National Writers Union
● Online News Association Los Angeles
● Pacific Media Workers Guild
● Radio Television Digital News Association
● Society of Professional Journalists, Los Angeles

This memo has been shared with the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training as well as the Los Angeles Police Department.

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Pacific Media Workers Guild

We are the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America. We represent more than 1,200 journalists and other media workers, interpreters, translators, union staffs and freelancers.