DOJ subpoenas former OPB reporter in Malheur Refuge trial

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Federal prosecutors issued a subpoena Thursday for former Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter John Sepulvado to testify in the second trial of the occupiers who took control of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. 

Sepulvado must appear and testify in Oregon U.S. District Court Tuesday, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by Current. Sepulvado now hosts The California Report for KQED in San Francisco. 

OPB GM Steve Bass declined to comment on how Sepulvado and the station will respond to the subpoena, citing the ongoing legal issue. Sepulvado did not respond to a request for comment.

The organization’s general policy “is that reporters’ notes are private documents; they’re not subject to subpoena,” said Morgan Holm, OPB’s senior VP and chief content officer, in an OPB news story about the subpoena. “We would try to prevent those from getting out because they’re work product.”

The story added that Sepulvado may have been singled out because federal prosecutors have previously said in court that they believe an interview Sepulvado conducted with occupier Ryan Bundy provides evidence that’s relevant to the case.

OPB and Sepulvado covered the occupation and the subsequent trials extensively, with Sepulvado writing or contributing to about three dozen stories on the occupation. OPB won a Online Journalism Award from the Online News Association last year for breaking-news coverage of the events.

A spokesperson for the Committee to Protect Journalists told Current that the organization is unaware of other journalists who have been subpoenaed under the Trump administration.

In an interview with CPJ, First Amendment attorney James Goodale said there is “reasonable risk that there will be more subpoenas” of journalists under the Trump administration. In his confirmation hearing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to commit to following 2015 guidelines issued by former Attorney General Eric Holder that suggest high-level review before journalists are subpoenaed, according to the Center for Democracy & Technology.

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