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Student Who Witnessed Murder Trying To Use Journalism Shield Law

from the this-seems-odd dept

Romenesko points us to the news that a journalism student who witnessed a murder (and took some photos) in San Francisco is now trying to use California's journalist shield law to refuse to cooperate with police. The law is intended to protect journalists from having to reveal sources -- and we've noted a few recent lawsuits where "amateur" journalists have been trying to use such shield laws to protect their sources. In some of those discussions, some people pointed out that people might just automatically declare themselves a journalist to get covered by the law, though it seemed like that could be dealt with on a case-by-case basis -- and this case may push the borderline a bit.

The student was acting as a photo journalist, as part of his senior project, documenting the life of the guy who was shot and killed. His lawyer points out that part of the reason for such shield laws is so that reporters can observe and report without becoming a part of cases as witnesses. However, some would argue that's really meant for reporters who are investigating the details of a crime, not those who witnessed the crime in action. On top of that, there's the issue that, if the student does provide info to the police, his own life would be put in danger as well. I'm a big supporter of shield laws for journalists, and understand what the student is doing, but wonder if a judge might use this case to puncture a hole in those shield laws.
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Filed Under: journalism, murder, shield laws, witness

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  1. identicon
    Man from Atlanta, 22 May 2009 @ 8:18am


    Perhaps this student is trying to avoid discussing how he ended his project a little early?

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