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U.S. service department went too far by taking journalists' notes and film


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SPJ News
8/23/1996


The Society of Professional Journalists condemned today the arrest of an Oregon reporter and photographer and the seizure of their notes and film.

"Journalists ought to be able to do their jobs, and it's clear that is exactly what these two journalists were trying to do," said G. Kelly Hawes, SPJ president. "The forest service should not be making that task more difficult by drawing lines in the sand that journalists cannot cross."

Jeff Wright and Anthony Robert La Penna of The Register-Guard were arrested while covering the eviction of protesters in Warner Creek, Ore. Their notes and film were seized and the notes were reviewed by U.S. Forest Service agents. The photographer's film was developed, but agents said it hadn't been reviewed.

"There seems to be some question about whether the two journalists went over the line in trying to cover a protest, but there's absolutely no question that the forest service went over the line when it seized the journalists' notes and film," said Hawes. "And that investigators developed the film and reviewed the notes is an outrage."

While the agency said it would return the information to the paper, that doesn't rectify the situation, said Hawes.

"The action by the forest service is unconscionable and can in no way be justified by the argument that the notes and film might have produced evidence of trespass. As the investigators now admit, there was no such evidence and it is unbelievable that the investigators ever thought there might be."

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