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SPJ condemns San Francisco PD’s home raid to obtain source’s name
J. Alex Tarquinio, SPJ National President, 212-283-0843, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Director of Communications and Marketing, 317-361-4134, email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists condemns the over-the-top actions of the San Francisco Police Department in searching and seizing equipment and notes from the home of a journalist in an apparent effort to obtain the identity of the journalist’s confidential source.
The home of freelance video journalist Bryan Carmody was raided Friday by eight to 10 police officers who tried to break into his front gate with a sledgehammer. Once Carmody learned they had a search warrant, he let them in. They proceeded to search his home, guns drawn, and took notebooks, computers, phones, cameras and other personal property. Earlier, Carmody had refused to reveal the source of a confidential police report on the Feb. 22 death of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
“The extremes that the San Francisco Police Department went to are outrageous, especially when California has one of the strongest Shield Laws in the country to protect journalists from being held in contempt for refusing to disclose their sources’ identities,” said J. Alex Tarquinio, SPJ national president.
As the SPJ NorCal Chapter pointed out in its statement, California Penal Code section 1524(g) provides that “no warrant shall issue” for any item protected by the Shield Law. The NorCal Freedom of Information Committee is seeking more information on the raid, including why these laws were not adhered to.
“One expects this level of disregard for the value of press freedom in an autocratic country without the First Amendment,” Tarquinio said. “In this country, journalists have the right to gather and report on information. They also have the right to protect their sources. The seizure of any journalist’s notes or equipment sets a dangerous precedent.”
We call on the San Francisco Police Department to return Carmody’s belongings in the condition they were in when confiscated. They must not search the hard drives of his computers or other devices for information they have no right to obtain under California law.
We also renew our call to lawmakers to pass a strong Federal Shield Law to make it crystal clear that journalists have the right to protect their sources as a fundamental tenet of freedom of the press and the First Amendment. This is crucial to a functioning democracy.
SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the SPJ Foundation.