Hawaii’s Governor Tries To Keep A Law Allowing Him To Shut Down TV And Radio In An Emergency

A planned veto by Hawaii Gov. Josh Green that would maintain a state law allowing Green or a county mayor to shut down electronic media within the state in an emergency has drawn opposition from the Hawaii Association of Broadcasters.

Green plans to veto HB 2581, a measure that would modify existing state law, which currently grants those authorities shutdown powers during an emergency.

According to a news release from the HAB, officials would be permitted to “Shut off water mains, gas mains, electric power connections, or suspend other services, and, to the extent permitted by or under federal law, suspend electronic media transmission.”

In the release, the HAB notes that “Suspending electronic media transmission by state or county authorities is not permitted under any federal law.”

It’s also problematic to define “electronic media,” the HAB says, noting that could potentially include radio, TV, internet, cable, cell service, text messaging and social media transmissions.

“The Governor or Mayors’ ability to suspend any and all ‘electronic media transmissions’ during a state of emergency creates a clear prior restraint on lawful free speech and publication and violates the First Amendment as upheld by the United States Supreme Court,” Chris Leonard, President of the Hawaii Association of Broadcasters, says in the release. “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.”

The HAB is advocating a proposed revision of the law that would eliminate the points of contention — and thereby lifting any potential restrictions on radio and other media during emergencies.

According to Courthouse News Service, Green says the measure is necessary to defend against extreme acts of violence or terrorism.

During last year’s Maui wildfires, radio played a major role with cell service and internet down in the Lahaina area. For those in affected areas in need of information and aid, AM/FM became the only viable method of communication.

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