United States Attack on Journalists’ Right to Protect Sources “Violates First Amendment” Says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists has accused the United States authorities of endangering the country’s cardinal democratic principle of free expression by attempting to force reporters to disclose confidential sources of information.

“The First Amendment is a beacon for free expression,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “But that principle is threatened when journalists are bullied by judges and face jail for talking to government employees about serious public issues.”

The IFJ is backing New York Times reporter Judith Miller who faces jail after being held in contempt by a judge in Washington over her refusal to reveal the source of a story about a leak from the White House for which she gathered material. The story was never published.

The leak investigation began after undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity was leaked to journalists in July last year. Articles appeared citing two "administration officials" as sources. The leak was regarded by some as a politically-motivated attack on Plame's husband, a former US Ambassador. Her name was only revealed after her husband publicly criticised the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger to make nuclear weapons.

Revealing a CIA agent’s name is a criminal offence and a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the leak. Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet the Press, were ordered to testify before a grand jury over alleged conversations they had with a government official. They failed to get the subpoenas quashed on First Amendment grounds and both eventually gave evidence in August, although Cooper initially refused to comply and was given a jail term, which he planned to appeal, before he reached a deal with prosecutors.

Now Judith Miller is also facing jail or heavy fines in the same case for her refusal to testify after Judge Thomas Hogan in Washington overruled her opposition at a hearing last Thursday.

This case is one of a number of high-profile legal actions against reporters that has sparked a national campaign among press freedom campaigners and journalists led by The Newspaper Guild–CWA, an IFJ affiliate, which has gathered thousands of signatures from news people and others who support journalists, like Miller, who refuse to disclose their sources.

“We commend these reporters for standing firm and standing up for First Amendment principles,” says Newspaper Guild-CWA President Linda Foley, who is also a Vice President of the IFJ.

Click on the following link to view the Newspaper Guild-CWA Statement - Standing Up for the First Ammendment - A Statement in Support of Journalists Found in Contempt of Court

For further information: +32 2 235 22 07

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries