Edited by Margaret Baum and Bill Parks, Board members for the San Francisco Press Club

The San Francisco Press Club’s website has a new feature called First Amendment Watch, which cites efforts to protect the press from increasing government criticism and threats.  If you learn about struggles to protect the First Amendment, share the story with us, and we will consider posting a link on First Amendment Watch.

News Headlines

Senate bill would bring transparency to police misconduct records

Bill would grant public access to data on police shootings, sustained misconduct

Trump administration fights for right to block Twitter users

Student protests serve as First Amendment lesson

Proposed bill would help prevent spread of fake news in California

Bill would protect journalists

Superintendent denies right to protest

State and National Resources

1) Student Press Law Center (National)

The Student Press Law Center is an advocate for student First Amendment rights, for freedom of online speech, and for open government on campus. SPLC is a non-profit corporation that offers legal assistance to educating high school and college journalists about the rights and responsibilities embodied in the First Amendment, and supporting the student news media in covering important issues free from censorship.

SPLC provides free legal advice and information as well as low-cost educational materials for student journalists. The organization also operates a formal Attorney Referral Network of about 215 lawyers across the country who are available to provide free legal representation to students in applicable situations.

2) First Amendment Coalition (National)

The First Amendment Coalition is a non-profit public interest organization dedicated to advancing free speech, more open and accountable government, and public participation in civic affairs. FAC offers a free legal hotline for journalists, activists, academics, and individuals frustrated in the exercise of their First Amendment rights.

The hotline gives users access to a national law firm to help with questions about access to public records, rights regarding government meetings, access to court documents and proceedings, and First Amendment protections for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The organization also offers other services like the Subpoena Defense Initiative, which provides counsel for journalists who are subpoenaed for confidential sources and notes but can't afford representation.

FAC also files lawsuits and contributes briefs in court cases. The organization offers educational and informational programs online, in books and in conferences. FAC provides legislative oversight of bills affecting access to government.

3) California News Publishers Association (California-specific)

The California News Publishers Association's goal is is to champion the ideals of a free press and to promote the quality and economic health of California Newspapers. CNPA protects the interests of newspapers throughout the state. The organization provides several services to its newspaper members including legislative lobbying and legal support, advertising networks, contests, employment services, contests and conventions, and training and student support.

One of CNPA's legal counsels regularly presents a seminar to member newspapers which include the basics of the California Public Records Act and the state's open meeting laws. The seminar also covers libel, the use of content posted to social media, and journalists' rights in accessing school grounds and emergency-response scenes. CNPA's website also provides sample letters to help journalists contact government agencies and public officials for information.

4) Society of Professional Journalists (National with local chapters)

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. The organization is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

The organization has several publications and sends out Freedom of Information alerts that let members know about important state and national legal decisions and court cases. SPJ also conducts several projects and programs aimed at improving and protecting journalism. The annual report on Freedom of Information, which is published in SPJ's Quill magazine presents information on FOI topics making the news. The society's legal counsel also tracks administrative, legislative and judicial developments.

SPJ's legal defense fund is an account that helps journalists involved in access and shield-law cases by providing members with legal or direct financial assistance. The organization also holds workshops, conventions and awards programs. SPJ has over 250 chapters throughout the country.