weather icon Mostly Cloudy

EDITORIAL: California Democrats threaten press freedoms

Updated June 7, 2019 - 11:16 pm

Democrats have portrayed President Donald Trump as a tyrant and enemy of the First Amendment. Scores of newspapers even banded together last October to run editorials highlighting what they perceived to be the dangers of the president’s attacks on the press.

Mr. Trump’s rhetoric about “fake news” and the press being “the enemy of the people” has indeed been unfortunate and over the top. But so far it has been nothing more than that — rhetoric. By contrast, consider what’s going on in that progressive paradise of California.

As Steven Greenhut noted last week for the Orange County Register, both the San Francisco Police Department and the state attorney general have taken a much more proactive approach than the president when it comes to threatening press freedoms.

In San Francisco, police raided a reporter’s home and office last month after he secured a copy of a police report related to the death of a public defender and sold information from it to news outlets. The cops were angry over the leak and subsequently confiscated the reporter’s cameras, computers and cellphones. Never mind that “police reports are supposed to be public records,” Mr. Greenhut reports.

Meanwhile, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the publicity hungry face of the hysterical Trump Resistance in the Golden State, has his own issues with the First Amendment. Earlier this year, Mr. Greenhut notes, reporters from a Cal-Berkeley investigative journalism program requested and received from a state commission a list of 12,000 law enforcement applicants, officers and retirees who were convicted of crimes. In response, Mr. Becerra — “a close ally of police unions,” according to Mr. Greenhut — “threatened to criminally prosecute the reporters unless they destroy records that were provided by a public agency.”

Where is the uproar from those on the left about these Democratic abuses of press freedoms?

In a May 23 column for CALmatters.org headlined “Blue-state California now harassing journalists,” Dan Walters highlights the hypocrisy.

“Democratic politicians and civil libertarians,” he wrote, “would erupt in outrage at a heavy-handed government act (by the Trump administration) intended to discourage journalists from delving into areas that officialdom considered off-limits.”

It would be helpful if Mr. Trump toned down his broadsides on the media, although that isn’t to say they should be above reproach. But more troubling are actual efforts by public officials to keep information suppressed through threats, intimidation and harassment. These unfortunate developments in California highlight that fending off attacks on the First Amendment requires eternal vigilance — and that “enlightened” progressives aren’t above such authoritarian assaults.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.