On 24 July, Seattle judge Nelson Lee ruled that five news outlets should hand over to the police unpublished pictures and videos from a protest that took place on 30 May. The police claims that the footage will help in an ongoing investigation on arson and theft.
The 2007 Washingston State shield law says journalists are considered a special group because of their public function of holding the powerful into account, and their material is therefore protected.
The IFJ and its affiliates the NewsGuild and the National Writers Union, believe the Seattle Court ruling not only ignores the law and disregards journalism's function, but it also puts journalists themselves in danger of being perceived as government informants.
The ruling is a major step backward in a recent series of progressive decisions. On 23 July, a Portland court had issued a temporary order barring officers from using force and ordering journalists. On 2 July, another court protected journalists with authorized press passes from Portland police dispersals during protests.
NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss said, “Seattle police have clearly overreached by subpoenaing photos and videos taken by journalists. It puts journalists and the public at risk. A truly free press must be free from the interference of the state. Anyone concerned about securing our democracy must fight against government overreach.”
“Who will talk to a reporter or allow someone to video an action if they believe it will end up in the hands of the police?,” added Larry Goldbetter from the National Writers Union.
IFJ Secretary General Anthony Bellanger said, "It is very discouraging to hear that a Court has taken such a decision and has not shown any interest in safeguarding journalism. We are very concerned about the state of the press in the US: this is yet another instance in which law and order principles have been allowed to step onto it."