As colleagues of Jeff German mark one year since the investigative reporter was found stabbed to death outside his Las Vegas home, they’re in a fight to protect his devices — and confidential sources — as police investigate his killing.
German, who reported for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was found killed outside his Las Vegas home on September 3, 2022.
Since German’s death, the Review-Journal newsroom has been grappling with the loss of their colleague as they work to shield his devices, which police seized as part of their investigation.
On Thursday, the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) renewed calls for authorities to protect German’s anonymous sources while investigating his killing.
“We implore the authorities to do all they can to bring Jeff German’s killer to justice, but endangering German’s journalistic sources in the course of this investigation will only compound the tragedy,” Clayton Weimers, executive director RSF’s U.S. bureau, said in a statement.
Four days after German was found dead, police arrested and charged former Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles with the murder.
German previously reported on alleged mismanagement in Telles’ office, which contributed to Telles losing his reelection. German was working on a follow-up story at the time of his slaying.
Telles, who is representing himself, has pleaded not guilty. The trial is set to begin in November.
The Review-Journal and press freedom groups are concerned that German’s confidential sources are at risk of being exposed if police are allowed to have unrestricted access to his devices.
Another worry is that if police are given unfettered access, it could set a legal precedent permitting reporters’ private source material to be accessed after they are killed.
The Review-Journal wants independent third parties to review German's devices first to make sure information related to confidential sources or sensitive unpublished information that is not related to German’s death aren’t turned over to the police.
Nevada has one of the country’s strongest shield laws, which protect reporters from being forced by the government to disclose information like the identities of sources.
“Authorities in this case must respect the confidentiality of German’s sources and privileged reporting materials,” RSF’s Weimers said in the statement. “If law enforcement or government officials were to review the full, unredacted contents of German’s devices, it would put confidential sources at risk and have a chilling effect on anyone else from speaking to reporters.”
The Nevada Supreme Court will decide on the matter in the coming months.
At the end of August, German was posthumously awarded the President’s Award from the National Press Club in Washington.
Lizzie Johnson, the Washington Post reporter who completed the story German was working on when he was killed, was also honored with the President’s Award.