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Broadcaster loses appeal over videotape of reporter's arrest

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Broadcaster loses appeal over videotape of reporter's arrest09/23/96 IDAHO--The Idaho Supreme Court in late August upheld a lower court's decision…

Broadcaster loses appeal over videotape of reporter’s arrest

09/23/96

IDAHO–The Idaho Supreme Court in late August upheld a lower court’s decision ordering a Twin Falls television station to turn over videotape subpoenaed by Jerome County prosecutors, stating that compelled disclosure will have little effect on the newsgathering process.

KMVT had asserted a qualified reporter’s privilege under the First Amendment which protects confidential sources. Idaho does not have a shield law.

But in its 4-1 decision, the court held that the information on the videotape was not confidential, and that the reporter’s privilege was not applicable. KMVT has petitioned the court for a rehearing.

The videotape of an automobile accident scene was sought by prosecutors for use in the criminal prosecution of a newspaper photographer who was arrested at the scene for obstructing police.

In holding that the information was not confidential, the court noted that the videotape was shot at a public event — a traffic accident on a public highway — and that this event was readily viewable to anyone present.

Moreover, the court ruled that requiring production of the tape posed no realistic threat to the free flow of information to the press and public. The court rejected KMVT’s argument that the media might stop covering accidents if they are compelled to provide the videotape in a criminal prosecution.

A dissenting judge stated that prosecutors failed to show a compelling interest in the information, or that the information could not be obtained from other sources, which is required under a test developed by courts to determine if a journalist should reveal a confidential source. The prosecutor stated that there were several people at the accident scene who could have testified about the arrest, but conceded that he did not contact any of them, the judge noted. (State of Idaho v. KMVT Broadcasting; Media Counsel: Thomas High, Twin Falls)