Journalists Celebrate Subpoena Dismissal

Publish date:

The Defend the Press Coalition, whose ranks include journalists and TV talk vet Phil Donahue, has planned a press conference in Washington Thursday to celebrate a victory over government efforts to subpoena reporters to testify about sources.

It will come against a backdrop of a number of reporters testifying in Washington--Judith Miller and Tim Russert among them--this week in the trial of former vice presidential top aide Scooter Libby.

The coalition's victory came when the U.S. Army earlier this week dropped two charges against Lt. Ehren Watada, who is being court martialed. The dropped charges resulted in the withdrawal of subpoenas of two writers--print and Web--who had talked with the soldier.

The charges were for conduct unbecoming an officer and related to statements he had made to the reporters critical of the war. He had refused to deploy to Iraq.

"This is a big win for all journalists," said Jerry Zremski, president of the National Press Club, which is hosting the press conference and which came out against the subpoenas. "When the government tries to drag reporters into court to testify about their work, it undermines their ability to freely report the news -- and that means it undermines the First Amendment," said Zremsky in a statement.

Freelance journalist Sarah Olsen, whose subpoena had been a rallying point for a coalition campaign, will be on hand to talk about the case.