Another Victory For Independent Journalists

David Morse, a member of the Indybay Collective (a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage) was arrested on December 11, 2009 during protests at the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s house.

He wore a press badge, and repeatedly identified himself as a reporter to University of California police officers when they detained him. Nonetheless, campus police seized his camera and arrested him, initially charging him with several felonies. (source)

According to the First Amendment Project who represented David in court pro bono:

Prior to his release on bail the next day, the UCPD obtained a search warrant to look at the photographs Morse had taken. In obtaining the search warrant, the UCPD did not inform the judge of Morse’s claims that he was a journalist. The charges against Morse, which included rioting and vandalism, were dropped soon thereafter.

California Penal Code section 1524(g) provides that “no search warrant shall issue” for unpublished information gathered by a journalist during the course of newsgathering. The law was enacted in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision which held that the First Amendment did not bar search warrants from being issued against newsrooms. Thus any protections journalists had in such circumstances must come from the legislature.

Judge Northridge issued her order over UC’s argument that section 1524(g) should not apply when the journalist was suspected of having committed or observed a crime. Judge Northridge also rejected UC’s argument that even if the search warrant was improper, UC should be permitted to keep copies of Morse’s photographs for use in its internal disciplinary investigations.

There Are 4 Comments On This Article.

  1. wow i can’t believe this happens to real photographers. How come the police don’t arrest the paparazzi for all the crazy stuff they pull off. I see them breaking so many laws out here in malibu every day.