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They're Throwing Journalists Into Jail Right Here In The USA
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published on 11/11/2004
Paging China! Help us! Urge the U.S. government to respect freedom of the press!
It does sound topsy-turvy, doesn't it? Generally, it's China and Zimbabwe that are throwing journalists in prison, while the U.S. denounces the repression over there.
But now similar abuses are about to unfold within the United States, part of an alarming new pattern of assault on American freedom of the press. In the last few months, three different U.S. federal judges, each appointed by President Ronald Reagan, have found a total of eight journalists in contempt of court for refusing to reveal confidential sources, and the first of them may go to prison before the year is out. Some of the rest may be in prison by spring.
The first reporter likely to go to jail is Jim Taricani, a television reporter for the NBC station in Providence. Taricani obtained and broadcast, completely legally, a videotape of a city official as he accepted an envelope full of cash.
U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres found Taricani in contempt for refusing to identify the person he got the videotape from, and the judge fined him $1,000 a day. That hasn't broken Taricani, so Torres has set a hearing for Nov. 18 to decide whether to squeeze him by throwing him in jail.
Then there's Patrick Fitzgerald, the overzealous special prosecutor who is the Inspector Javert of our age. Fitzgerald hasn't made any progress in punishing the White House officials believed to have leaked the identity of the CIA officer Valerie Plame to Robert Novak.
But Fitzgerald seems determined to imprison two reporters who committed no crime, Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time, because they won't blab about confidential sources.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan is threatening to send them to prison; a hearing is set for Dec. 8. As for Novak, he is in no apparent jeopardy, for reasons that remain unclear.
Then there's a third case, a civil suit between the nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee and the government. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson held five reporters who are not even parties to the suit in contempt for refusing to reveal confidential sources.
In yet another case, the Justice Department is backing a prosecutor's effort to get a record of telephone calls made by two New York Times reporters —uncovering all their confidential sources in the fall of 2001. Put all this together, and we're seeing a broad assault on freedom of the press that would appall us if it were happening in Kazakhstan.
Responsibility lies primarily with the judges rather than with the Bush administration, except for the demand for phone records and for the appointment of Inspector Javert as special prosecutor.
But it's probably not a coincidence that we're seeing an offensive against press freedoms during an administration that has a Brezhnevian fondness for secrecy.
We journalists are in this mess partly because we're widely seen as arrogant and biased, and we need to wrestle seriously with those issues. But when reporters face jail for doing their jobs, the ultimate victim is the free flow of information, the circulatory system of any democracy.
The Chinese government recently arrested Zhao Yan, a research assistant for The New York Times in Beijing, and the Bush administration has been very helpful about protesting the case. Maybe Colin Powell can work out a deal: The Chinese government will stop imprisoning journalists if the U.S. government will do the same.
Protecting confidential sources has been a sacred ethical precept in publishing ever since John Twyn was arrested in 1663 for printing a book that offended the king. Twyn refused to reveal the name of the book's author, so he was publicly castrated and disemboweled, and his limbs severed from his body. Each piece of his body was nailed to a London gate or bridge.
So, on the bright side, we have evidently progressed.
In May, Iran's secret police detained me in Tehran and demanded that I identify a revolutionary guard I had quoted as saying “to hell with the mullahs.” My interrogators threatened to imprison me unless I revealed my source. But after a standoff, the Iranian goons let me go. Imprisoning Western journalists for protecting their sources was too medieval, even for them. Let's hope the U.S. judicial system shows the same restraint as those Iranian thugs.
Nicholas Kristof is a columnist for The New York Times.
Originally posted by GradyPhilpott
Confidentiality granted to even physicians and mental health professionals is not absolute. I have no sympathy for these journalists. If the courts decide that the identity of their sources is essential to the prosection of criminals, then the journalists must comply or go to prison. It's their choice. Journalists are not some special class of citizens.
Originally posted by Sauron
First They Came for the Jews
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew....
Pastor Martin Niemöller
Originally posted by brimstone735
Reason and rational thinking simply will not appeal to some Americans. Nor will apealing to their base sensibilities, nor will the "When will they come for you?" argument. It just won't. It falls on deaf ears. Have you noticed? The ones who scream the loudest about protecting our freedom from the terrorists, are also the ones most willing to throw it away?
Originally posted by GradyPhilpott
Why should a journalist's rights transcend that of me or you?
bla, bla, bla !
learned that from my daughter.
This type of behavior is called Anti-Social. The Anti-Social personality knows what the law is, but believes that the law does not apply to him. I think this classification applies to the journalists in question.
Those here who choose to support them do so not out of reason, but only because these individuals are defying the "system" and they support them only in words because it is an easy avenue to take cheap shots at the President and his administration.
[edit on 04/11/12 by GradyPhilpott]
The United States, ranked 22nd, also came in for criticism for violating the privacy of sources, problems in giving press visas and the arrest of several journalists during anti-Bush demonstrations.
Originally posted by flukemol
this is one thing you guys in the usa should be demanding from your governments.we dont want the 60s back do we?i