U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Subpoena seeking testimony from Oregon independent journalist dropped

Incident Details

May 5, 2022

The Deschutes County District Attorney in Bend, Oregon, issued a subpoena to independent journalist Hanna Merzbach on May 5, 2022, seeking testimony for an ongoing criminal case against a local rock climber. The subpoena was dropped the next day.

In an email to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, Merzbach said the subpoena demanded she testify as a witness during a three-day criminal trial for local climber Shawn Ian Snyder. Merzbach interviewed Snyder for a September 2020 article about rock climbing regulations at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon.

Before this trial, Snyder had been accused of removing climbing bolts in Yosemite State Park and was arrested and banned for removing climbing ropes and gear from Smith Rock, which he said “puts a stain on a beautiful, natural place.”

According to Merzbach, the DA’s office wanted her to testify on a specific quote attributed to Snyder in her article. In the quote, he admitted that while unacceptable, he had “determined that physical threats and actions are the only methods that work” when communicating with other climbers about installing climbing equipment in the park.

Merzbach told the Tracker that the subpoena was dropped on May 6 after lawyers from the Oregon chapter of the Reporters Committee for Freedom Press intervened. RCFP is a member of the Tracker’s advisory board.

In a tweet referring to the incident, Ellen Osoinach of RCFP wrote, “Fact. Journalists should never have to testify against sources they worked to develop relationships of trust with.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]