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RCFP statement on pipeline company’s subpoenas against nonprofit news site, journalist

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“These subpoenas are an attempt to intimidate journalists and silence their sources, and the court should immediately dismiss them.”

On March 17, the pipeline company Energy Transfer issued subpoenas to Unicorn Riot, a nonprofit news organization, and one of its journalists seeking unpublished work materials related to the outlet’s reporting on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The subpoenas, filed with a Minnesota state court as part of ongoing litigation stemming from pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, demand that Unicorn Riot and reporter Niko Georgiades hand over emails, audio and video recordings, financial documents, and other records.

“Any effort to compel journalists to reveal their unpublished communications risks chilling reporter-source relationships and ultimately undermines important reporting in the public interest,” said Bruce D. Brown, executive director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “These subpoenas are an attempt to intimidate journalists and silence their sources, and the court should immediately dismiss them.”


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.