Afrique Asie Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
United States20 April 2005

Two journalists have one last chance before being imprisoned for protecting their sources

Reporters Without Borders said today it was extremely worried by yesterday’s decision by a federal appeal court in Washington confirming an order that Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine must go to prison for "contempt of court," for refusing to reveal their sources. The two journalists’ only hope now is the supreme court, if it agrees to consider their case.

"Sending these two reporters to prison because they refused to name their contacts is both a serious infringement on the practice of the journalistic profession and a violation of press freedom," the organization said. "It is imperative that the supreme court should accept the case and recognize the right of journalists to protect the identity of their sources, without which they cannot work."

Noting that 31 of states of the union recognize this right, Reporters Without Borders said it fell to the supreme court to fill the legal gap that exists at the federal level. "It is equally urgent that the two bills on the free flow of information that were submitted to the US senate and house of representatives in February should be debated and adopted, inasmuch as they enshrine this right for the press."

A three-judge panel of the federal appeal court on 15 February issued a ruling confirming a lower court judgment that Cooper and Miller should be imprisoned for up to 18 months for refusing to disclose their sources to a grand jury investigating a leak that exposed the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. It was this 15 February ruling that was confirmed yesterday by a full meeting of the appeal court held at the request of the journalists’ lawyers.

Their fate is now in the supreme court’s hands. However, the appeal court based its ruling on a 1972 supreme court decision (Branzburg v. Hayes) that journalists could not invoke any right to protect their sources before the courts.

Paradoxically, Miller obtained a favourable ruling in a similar case before a New York district judge on 24 February. The New York judge based his decision on First Amendment privilege as interpreted in previous court rulings.

In this country
14 May - United States
Arraignment of suspected mastermind of Chauncey Bailey’s murder postponed again
14 May - United States
Obama opposes release of torture photos
6 May - United States
“To combat Internet censorship, companies cannot be left to act on their own”
4 May - United States
Yusuf Bey IV indicted in Chauncey Bailey’s murder
2 May - United States
Reporters Without Borders welcomes President’s statement in honor of World Press Freedom Day

in the annual report
United States - Annual Report 2008
United States - Annual report 2007
United States - Annual report 2006

14 March 2008 - Cuba
No surrender by independent journalists, five years on from “black spring”
5 June 2007 - Venezuela
Closure of Radio Caracas Televisión consolidates media hegemony
22 May 2007 - Colombia
Paramilitary "black eagles" poised to swoop down on press

Americas press releases
3 June - United States
President Obama urged to raise freedom of expression in his Cairo speech
29 May - Venezuela
Open letter to President Hugo Chavez to protest about official hounding of Globovisión
27 May - Mexico
Crime reporter abducted and killed in Durango state
20 May - Cuba
Anyone can browse the Internet... unless they are Cuban
15 May - Cuba
Journalist gets three-year jail sentence

Americas archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives

Sign the petitions
Miguel Galván Gutiérrez
Fabio Prieto Llorente
United States
Chauncey Bailey
A petition to Raúl Castro