(BIVN) – A House Bill that would remove the ability of the Hawaiʻi governor, or a county mayor, to suspend “electronic media transmission during a state of emergency”, advanced in the State Senate on Friday.
HB 522 HD 1, which already passed through the Hawaiʻi House of Representatives, was given a positive recommendation after a hearing before the Senate Committee on Public Safety and Intergovernmental and Military Affairs.
As written in the first section of the bill:
The legislature finds that the power of a mayor or the governor to suspend the transmission of electronic media during a state of emergency is overly broad and vague. Electronic media could include not only all radio and television broadcasts but also text messages, emails, and posts to social media platforms. Therefore, suspensions of electronic media transmission may restrain lawful free speech and publication and violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The purpose of this Act is to remove the ability of the governor or a mayor to suspend electronic media transmission during a state of emergency.
Journalists and broadcasters alike are in support of the House Bill. Some of them testified on Friday.
“The language is in fact dated,” said Chris Leonard, the president of the Hawaiʻi Association of Broadcasters, on the current law. “It goes back to a 1951 civil defense air raid provision. There are constitutional issues, there are jurisdictional issues that we have concerns about.”
“Although I can imagine there are ways to write around the concerns that are being raised, I would also suggest and request, respectfully, that the measure moved forward,” said Ryan Kawailani Ozawa, the publisher of the Hawaiʻi Bulletin. “Things can always be revised in future sessions.”
Meanwhile, the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency presented testimony in opposition to the measure. However, emergency officials seemed open to compromise.
“We have been in ongoing conversation with the proponents of this measure to try and find some compromise language,” testified Adam Weintraub on behalf of HI-EMA. “We recognize that the existing language within chapter 127 does leave some room for interpretation.”