Afrique Asie Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
United States19 July 2005

Source confidentiality: Reporters Without Borders’ Open Letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee

To the attention of The Honorable Arlen Specter Chairman United States Senate Judiciary Committee

Dear Chairman Specter:

On July 20, 2005, the United States Senate Judiciary Committee plans to deliberate on a bill known as the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2005," which was introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate in February. Reporters Without Borders, an organization dedicated to defending press freedom, hopes that this hearing will be the first step toward the text’s swift passage-for this is an urgent matter.

The Judiciary Committee’s meeting comes on the heels of the imprisonment, on July 6, of Judith Miller of The New York Times, who was sentenced to jail for "contempt of court," because she refused to divulge her sources of information. This case constitutes a dangerous precedent for the American press and for the freedom to inform, in view of the fact that other journalists awaiting trial may well receive the same verdict. This case also raises fears that many journalists could lose some of their informants, thereby jeopardizing the press’s role as a counterbalance. Finally, this case indicates a major judicial flaw at the federal legislation level regarding confidentiality of sources.

How can we account for the fact that Judith Miller was sentenced by a DC federal court even though a judge had ruled in her favor in a similar case tried before a New York federal court on February 24? What explanation can there be for the fact that 31 states of the Union uphold shield laws, which recognize a journalist’s privilege to maintain confidentiality of sources while courts at the federal level deprive them of the very same rights? The Supreme Court’s decision of June 27 not to hear the cases of Judith Miller and her colleague Matthew Cooper of Time, unfortunately left this judicial flaw intact. Now it is up to lawmakers to fill in the gap.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this letter.

Respectfully yours,

Reporters Without Borders

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