The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on Tuesday sent a letter condemning a county prosecutor’s decision to confiscate the computer files of James Madison University’s student newspaper.
“By raiding The Breeze’s newsroom and copying files from its computers, you have by extension infringed upon every Virginian’s right to receive information from an independent and free press,” Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish wrote to Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst.
Attorneys representing the paper and the prosecutors office are still negotiating over the fate of the photos chronicling an April 10 off-campus gathering that police dispersed with tear gas and riot gear. The files are now in the hands of a third party.
The Reporters Committee expressed its hope for more positive future interactions between student journalists and prosecutors.
“At the very least, the student journalists deserve an apology and a concerted effort on the part of your office to ensure it never happens again — so that prosecutors can do their jobs without worrying about potential lawsuits, and journalists can act as independent conduits of news to the people,” the letter read.
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.