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Hawaii Broadcasters Oppose Governor on Media Blackouts

Existing law allows state officials to suspend electronic media in emergencies

The logo of the Hawaii Association of Broadcasters, with the letters HAB in large black letters, and the image of a palm tree nestled among themBroadcasters in Hawaii, worried about censorship, are speaking out against a planned legislative veto by the state’s governor.

Current law says that during a state of emergency, a mayor or governor may suspend utilities and electronic media transmissions.

A bill that has passed through the state legislature would remove the media language but Gov. Josh Green indicated last week that he planned to veto that.

The Hawaii Association of Broadcasters issued a statement in opposition to a veto.

“The current statute clearly represents government overreach in granting the state and county government a ‘blank check’ to shut down all electronic media transmission without providing an explanation for why this is necessary, what systems are affected, for how long and how decisions would be made,” said Chris Leonard, president of the HAB.

The association noted that suspending electronic media transmissions is not permitted under any federal law. It expressed concern over what it called “prior restraint” or the censoring of free expression before information is transmitted or published.

Introduced to the legislature in February, HB 2581 would remove the governor and mayoral powers related to suspending electronic media transmission in a state of emergency. Leonard said the edit will allow media to continue deliver information during emergencies “at a time when we need more, not less communication.”

According to a KHON(TV) Honolulu report, the governor is concerned about electronic media being used for “extreme violence or acts of terrorism which can use social media or other electronic media to communicate and activate crowds or destructive devices.”

A veto is not yet certain. The governor’s senior advisor, Blake Oshiro, told KHON that a final decision would be made by July 10.


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