Joint Letter to Law Enforcement and Local Governments

To Police Chief Moore, Sheriff Villanueva, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles City Council, Mayor Garcetti and Southern California Law Enforcement:

Los Angeles and other major cities have seen a resurgence in protests against police brutality over the past year, which have resulted in a series of incidents involving police officers and the journalists assigned to cover those demonstrations.

Journalists in Southern California and elsewhere have been detained, tackled, sprayed with tear gas, hit with rubber bullets and arrested, preventing them from providing the public with urgently needed information and putting their health and safety at great risk.

Law enforcement officers, and government agencies more broadly, must not interfere with journalists as they work to provide accurate information on these protests and law enforcement’s response to them.

Now, a cross-section of Southern California journalism organizations has come together to demand that you take new steps to safeguard that work.

We demand that you:

  • End the practice of detaining and arresting journalists who are covering events in areas where officers have issued a dispersal order or declared an unlawful assembly. Journalists must be able to witness and report on what happens during these important police actions.
  • Agree to ensure media have “sight and sound” access to any major event.
  • Ensure that media credentials are not required for news outlets, freelancers or student journalists to cover demonstrations.
  • Impress upon frontline supervisors that individuals who self-identify as journalists while acting in a news gathering capacity must be afforded full access.
  • Recognize that newsgathering is squarely protected by the First Amendment, with courts around the country finding that laws requiring journalists actively engaged in newsgathering to disperse raise serious constitutional concerns.
  • Understand that journalists play a vital role as surrogates for the public in witnessing the way police effectuate dispersal orders.

Finally, our organization leaders are requesting a face-to-face meeting to discuss these issues. We are confident that these issues can be resolved and the First Amendment freedoms can be safeguarded in Southern California.

Sincerely,
Asian American Journalists Association, Los Angeles
Society of Professional Journalists, Los Angeles
National Association of Hispanic Journalists Board of Directors
National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Los Angeles
National Association of Black Journalists of Los Angeles
Latino Journalists of California, CCNMA
Los Angeles Press Club
Media Guild of the West, NewsGuild-CWA Local 39213
SAG-AFTRA
Elaine Ocasio, IBEW Local 45 Business Manager

Check out the Press Club’s Tips for Safely Covering Protests.

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