Seems like every week I’m reading another story of the rights of photojournalists getting stomped on. Today, no exception. In this Virginia case, the cops seized unpublished photos from the James Madison University newspaper using a search warrant that violates journalist’s privilege under the First Amendment, the Virginia Constitution and common law.
“The settlement ends a month-and-a-half long debate over the photos, which began when someone from the prosecutor’s office called the student newspaper a few days after the riot and asked for copies of unpublished photos. The Breeze staff declined to do so, citing the journalist’s privilege under the First Amendment, the Virginia Constitution and common law, according to the settlement. The prosecutor’s office also contacted the university’s director of judicial affairs and general counsel, who declined to intervene, according to Garst’s statement. The next day, Garst received a search warrant for “all electronic devices” that are “on the premises or possessed or owned or leased or used by ‘The Breeze’ or by any of its employees, agents or members,” so they could obtain photos, videos or other images recorded that weekend, according to a copy of the warrant. Garst and a number of plainclothes officers then executed the warrant…” -Washington Post
Turns out that somebody at the prosecutors office realized this was a no-no. The Washington Post reports further that, “In a statement Garst apologized ‘for the fear and concern that I caused the Breeze and its staff. The discussions that have occurred have enhanced my understanding and re-enforced the role of a free press in our democracy.’ Garst said that in the future, when seeking information and documents from news organizations, including student media, she will do so through the subpoena process.”
Imagine that. The legal way. Read more here.