The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and the Press Freedom Defense Fund (PFDF) are extremely troubled by, and oppose, the recent ruling by a Seattle judge ordering local news media to provide their unpublished photographs and video footage to police from the protests on May 30, 2020.
It is dangerous enough for visual journalists to be covering the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests over the death of George Floyd. The last thing visual journalists want is to be seen as an arm of law enforcement, aiding attempts to gather evidence. In an era where there are cameras on nearly every corner and in every pocket in America, it strains belief that police cannot get the evidence that they need elsewhere. This is exactly what state shield laws are meant to protect against.
This ruling places all journalists in further danger — especially in Seattle. Journalists across the country are operating in perilous, dynamic conditions to inform society on matters of extreme public concern during an unprecedented health crisis. This ruling unnecessarily pits the free press against the public they report for, and forces them — against their will — to aid the government they are obligated to hold accountable through their reporting.
As part of their new legal advocacy initiative, NPPA and PFDF stand ready to support news media organizations and our members who are targets of these subpoenas, in whatever manner we can, and demand a stop to these intrusive overreaches by law enforcement. This case underscores the significance of state shield laws, which are not universal or uniform, nor do they provide absolute protection against these types of fishing expeditions.
About National Press Photographers Association
Since its founding in 1946, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has been the Voice of Visual Journalists. NPPA is a 501(c)(6) non-profit professional organization dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism, its creation, editing and distribution in all news media. NPPA encourages visual journalists to reflect the highest standards of quality and ethics in their professional performance, in their business practices and in their comportment. NPPA vigorously advocates for and protects the Constitutional rights of journalists as well as freedom of the press and speech in all its forms, especially as it relates to visual journalism. Its members include still and television photographers, editors, students, and representatives of businesses serving the visual journalism community. For updates on our work, go to our website or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
About Press Freedom Defense Fund
First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund provides essential legal support for journalists, news organizations, and whistleblowers who are targeted by governments, corporations or other powerful figures because they have tried to bring to light information that is in the public interest and necessary for a functioning democracy. The Fund also provides legal resources for operational needs of reporters and news organizations through a pro bono law firm and provides training and education programs to an array of media law professionals, nonprofit organizations, and professional gatherings. The PFDF fearlessly and relentlessly dedicates itself to protecting the First Amendment. Free speech should be regarded as a right, investigative reporting as a duty, and whistleblowing as an act of bravery. On Twitter, follow @press_fund and @firstlookmedia.
Mickey H. Osterreicher