The Radio Television Digital News Association and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force condemn in the strongest possible terms May 10 raids on the home and newsroom of San Francisco freelance journalist Bryan Carmody.
Carmody told the San Francisco Examiner that as many as ten San Francisco police officers and FBI special agents used a sledgehammer to gain access to his home. They then handcuffed Carmody for more than five and a half hours while they served a search warrant, obtained under seal, looking for the source of a leaked confidential police report concerning the February death of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
When they couldn’t find any relevant information at Carmody’s home, officers obtained a second search warrant for his newsroom, from which they confiscated at least $30 thousand worth of equipment, including cameras, computers, software and some of the journalist’s personal items. By taking that equipment, the police effectively put Carmody out of business.
The report at the center of the raids revealed that the married Adachi had died of a drug overdose, complicated by an underlying heart condition, at a borrowed apartment while in the company of a woman who was not his wife. Consistent with his duties as a freelance journalist and stringer, Carmody sold the information to three Bay Area newsrooms. He declined to name the news organizations that purchased the report.
“This is an unacceptable overreach by the San Francisco Police Department, which chose to bypass the common practice of obtaining a subpoena in an attempt to compel Carmody to reveal the identity of his confidential source. That would have afforded the journalist his due process rights to go to court in an attempt to protect his source’s identity,” said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Executive Director.
“We call on the San Francisco Police Department to return, immediately, all items confiscated from Carmody, and to observe both the letter and spirit of California’s shield law, which protects journalists from having to reveal the identities of their sources,” Shelley added.
The California shield law also offers protection to journalists’ sources.
A GoFundMe page has been established to raise money so that Carmody may return to work while his equipment remains confiscated. The RTDNA Voice of the First Amendment Task force has donated $500 toward the effort.
RTDNA is the world's largest professional organization devoted exclusively to broadcast and digital journalism. Founded as a grassroots organization in 1946, RTDNA’s mission is to promote and protect responsible journalism. RTDNA defends the First Amendment rights of electronic journalists throughout the country, honors outstanding work in the profession through the Edward R. Murrow Awards and provides members with training to encourage ethical standards, newsroom leadership and industry innovation.
RTDNA’s Voice of the First Amendment Task Force defends against threats to the First Amendment and news media access and helps the public better understand why responsible journalism is essential to their daily lives. RTDNA is a founding partner of the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the archive of record for threats against press freedom in America. Reach out to the task force by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org and contributing to support press freedom.