The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent a letter today to Department of Veterans Affairs officials objecting to the illegal seizure of a radio reporter’s sound card earlier this week.
The letter, sent to Veterans Affairs Secretary Erik Shinseki and Washington VA Medical Center Director Fernando Rivera, said the VA illegal seized WAMU-radio reporter David Schultz’s reporting equipment and demanded its swift return. It also asked for an apology to Schultz and the VA patient he was attempting to interview.
Schultz learned of a public forum at the Washington, D.C., VA hospital through a press release. He went to the public event, where at least one patient at the hospital was critical of his own care. When Schultz tried to interview him after his public remarks, VA officials surrounded him, threated to “get ugly” and seized his sound recording card.
“This whole event is reminiscent of the infamous Antonin Scalia speech in Mississippi in 2004 where federal marshals seized recorders from two reporters, ” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “When he was informed of the seizure, Scalia apologized to the reporters. Clearly the justice understood that the seizure of reporting materials violated the Privacy Protection Act of 1980.”
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.