Judge Delays Seattle Media’s Turning Over Protest Video

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A Seattle judge on Thursday put the brakes on an order requiring local media outlets to turn over to police unedited video of a Black Lives Matter protest, deciding that he will conduct an in camera review and decide what — if any — footage will go to police, reports Courthouse News Service. King County Superior Court Judge Nelson Lee ordered a 21-day stay while the media decide on an appeal. Lee said he has “utmost respect for members of the media” and understood only rare incidents could pierce Washington’s Reporter Shield Law. Under the shield law, those seeking disclosure must show the information sought is “highly material and relevant,” “critical or necessary” to a claim that has compelling public interest, and must show it has “exhausted all reasonable and available means.”

On July 23, Lee ordered the Seattle Times and four television stations to turn over all videos and photos taken over a 90-minute period of a demonstration protesting the killing of George Floyd. The footage Seattle police seek may include images of potential suspects torching police cars and stealing weapons from the vehicles. Lee said he “carefully balanced” the importance of a free media against “overwhelming concerns for public safety.” Media attorney Eric Stahl said journalists faced “very real danger” covering protests. Seattle Times reporters have been punched, harassed, and threatened by people at protests who are committing crimes and don’t want to be captured on film, the paper said. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told the court that, “Requiring members of the news media to assist law enforcement officers in an ongoing investigation by turning over their journalistic work product increases the likelihood that members of the public will incorrectly perceive journalists to be an extension of law enforcement, rather than independent press.”

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