Shield law protects isle filmmaker's sources


POSTED: Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Kauai judge has issued the first order under Hawaii's new media shield law protecting journalists from revealing their confidential sources, the American Civil Liberties Union said.

Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe ruled that independent filmmaker Keoni Alvarez cannot be forced to reveal his unpublished work or his confidential sources, the ACLU said in a news release. Alvarez was represented by the ACLU and Honolulu attorney James J. Bickerton.

Alvarez has spent the last four years preparing a documentary about native Hawaiian burial practices and was subpoenaed by attorneys for Joseph Brescia, whose home on Naue Point on Kauai has become a flash point over development and native Hawaiian burials.

Brescia's attorneys demanded nearly all of Alvarez's unpublished interviews and raw video footage and wanted him to answer questions about his observations and his activities in a deposition under oath, the ACLU said.

Watanabe granted the ACLU's motion last week to block the deposition and to prohibit Brescia from issuing more subpoenas to Alvarez.

“;With this decision, the media shield law can now be confidently asserted by journalists seeking to protect their work,”; Bickerton said.

Alvarez said, “;I can continue to work on my projects with integrity—without fear that I may have to betray the trust of my interview subjects. Without this ruling, people wouldn't trust me, and I wouldn't be able to work on really sensitive projects like this one.”;