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Judge’s order for media to turn over protest images ‘a dangerous overreach’


Patricia Gallagher Newberry, SPJ National President, 513-702-4065, pattinewberryspj@gmail.com
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists stands with its Western Washington Pro Chapter and Seattle Times Executive Editor Michele M. Flores in condemning a judge’s ruling that Seattle media companies must hand over unpublished protest images to police.

“Even with the limitations the judge placed in his ruling, this is a clear violation of the media’s right to gather and report the news independent of government oversight and interference,” said SPJ National President Patricia Gallagher Newberry. “Reporters already face skepticism and distrust from some protesters. This ruling will only escalate those feelings and could put journalists in greater physical danger.”

A King County judge on Thursday ruled that five Seattle media outlets must turn over images of arson and theft of police equipment during the May 30 protests.

“This is a dangerous overreach that puts the editorial independence of these news organizations at risk. We agree with [Flores]: It’s not our job to work with or for the government bodies we cover,” the SPJ Washington Pro Chapter said on Twitter.

KING 5 News Director Pete Saiers said in a statement, “KING 5 strongly opposes the judge’s ruling that damages our editorial independence and credibility at time when the public needs accountability reporting more than ever. “As journalists we do not work with, or for, the government entities we cover. When we’re turned into a fact-gathering apparatus, it undermines our constitutionally protected role and harms the flow of information to the public.”

Attorneys representing the media outlets also argued that the police’s request violates Washington state’s journalism shield law, which, in many cases, prevents the government from demanding source material from reporters and photographers, The Washington Post reported.

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