Why was a veteran journalist barred from Pamela Price press event?

Alex N. Gecan

Emilie Raguso, who runs The Berkeley Scanner, was not permitted into an Alameda County District Attorney’s Office press event Wednesday. First Amendment advocates have accused the agency of threatening press freedom. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Update, Dec. 3: On Saturday, Alameda County District Attorney’s Office emailed Emilie Raguso to say it had approved her request to receive press releases and invitations to media events, and she would now be “welcome” at its press events, according to a Dec. 2 story in The Berkeley Scanner.

The move came after press freedom groups rallied behind Raguso who was barred from a press event last week, saying the DA’s office had violated the First Amendment.

Original story: The Alameda County District Attorney’s office barred a local journalist from attending a press conference Wednesday, drawing criticism from First Amendment advocates.

Emilie Raguso, a former Berkeleyside reporter who now runs The Berkeley Scanner, a daily news site that focuses on Berkeley public safety and the DA’s office and averages 200,000 monthly pageviews, was turned away by District Attorney Pamela Price’s staff, who cited unspecified “safety issues” despite letting other members of local media attend, Raguso said.

“I have been on the DA media list for many years, but then in August, they took me off the list,” Raguso told Berkeleyside. She asked several times to be put back on, but “they said the media list is under review,” she said.

Two spokespeople for the agency told Raguso she wouldn’t be allowed into the press conference when she arrived, she said. She said she’s never been turned away from press events before.

The event itself, at the agency’s headquarters in Oakland, was focused on Price’s work for crime victims and their families.

“Ms. Raguso displayed her Oakland Police Department press credentials, although that was not required to verify her status as a reporter, which is well known to you and your staff, nor was it necessary to enter a press conference,” David Loy, legal director at the San Rafael-based First Amendment Coalition, wrote to Price Thursday. “Nonetheless, it confirmed she is a member of the press, but your staff still refused to allow her into the press conference.”

Loy wrote that Price’s office “violated the First Amendment and threatened freedom of the press.” His letter was cosigned by the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

“In particular, the First Amendment prohibits the government from arbitrarily excluding specific reporters from access to press conferences or other facilities or materials generally open to the public,” Loy wrote.

Raguso said no other reporters were asked to show identification or their affiliations Wednesday, and she felt Price’s office had singled her out.

This file photo from 2022 shows Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price. Credit: Amir Aziz Credit: Amir Aziz

Raguso said the only direct contact she has had with Price has been at press events or in passing at court.

“Public officials are well within their rights to decide who they will have a sit-down with, who will they call on at a press conference,” Raguso said. “The DA’s office has been extremely selective with who they give that time to.”

Raguso said she has made several inquiries to the agency, trying to get more information on her exclusion and the agency’s media policy, but has gotten no response. Spokespeople for the office did not respond to requests for comment from Berkeleyside.

“I’m definitely planning to follow this through. I don’t think government overstepping like this can be allowed to stand,” Raguso said. She said she was curious who else might also be excluded from press events.

“It raises all kinds of questions about who is allowed to cover our elected district attorney,” Raguso said. “This isn’t just a fight for me; it’s a fight for equal access to everyone.”

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Alex N. Gecan www.berkeleyside.org Crime & Safety,Oakland,Politics,Alameda County District Attorney’s Office,Home: highlight

2023-12-01 23:29:07 , Berkeleyside

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