SEATTLE (AP) — A King County judge has revised his ruling, ordering Friday that either he or a special master first will conduct a review of five Seattle news outlets’ unpublished protest photos and videos before deciding whether any should be turned over to Seattle police for an ongoing criminal investigation.
Superior Court Judge Nelson Lee said he added the provision for the review of the news images — taken during a protest May 30 downtown by journalists for The Seattle Times and television stations KIRO, KING, KOMO and KCPQ — after grappling with his July 23 ruling that the media outlets must comply with a police subpoena.
Despite the revisions, Seattle Times Executive Editor Michele Matassa Flores said the media parties to the case are disappointed with the ruling and will be filing an appeal, The Seattle Times reported.
“While we appreciate the judge’s addition of an intermediary — possibly himself — to review the material and select what to hand to the police — we strongly believe this decision poses a risk to the independence of the media and to the safety of photojournalists,” Matassa Flores said.
Police contend the raw news photos and footage may help identify people who torched five Seattle Police Department vehicles and stole two police guns.
The judge’s ruling last week that the media had to turn over the images drew widespread criticism from national civil rights and press freedom groups, local and national news organizations and several Seattle City Council members, among others.
Lee’s final written order, entered Friday after hearings about it over parts of two days, gives media outlets 21 days to appeal and obtain a stay to his order.
With the review, Lee said he aimed “to add another layer of scrutiny” to allay concerns about government intrusion on free speech rights.