Fourth Estate Opposes Seattle Judge’s Ruling That News Outlets Turn Over Unpublished Material

The following statement is by W. Jeffrey Brown — Founder and Executive Chairman — of the Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation, regarding the July 23rd, 2020 ruling by King County Superior Court Judge Nelson Lee that local news organizations must turn over raw and unpublished materials to law enforcement authorities.

Journalists and news organizations must never be forced or compelled to turn over unpublished notes and footage to the government.

We strongly oppose Judge Lee’s July 23rd ruling that news organizations must provide to law enforcement, raw and unpublished material collected during newsgathering at the protests in Seattle.

This decision forces the free press to act as an extension of the government and obligating journalists against their will  to aid the very government they rightfully hold accountable to the public, while creating an undue burden on the news outlets to participate in a law enforcement “fishing expedition.” 

The ruling underscores the need for a universal federal journalism shield law to protect members of the Fourth Estate from unconstitutional governmental overreach.  It is imperative that journalists remain independent from the governments that we hold accountable.

The Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation (Fourth Estate) is an international, non-partisan, cooperative organization dedicated to democratizing news for the public benefit.

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