Journalists Protest Contempt Crackdown - Broadcasting & Cable

Journalists Protest Contempt Crackdown

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Journalism groups from around the nation are sponsoring a protest of attempts by various courts to force reporters to reveal confidential sources.

The Reporters Committee For Freedom Of the Press (RCFP), along with 28 organizations including the Radio-Television News Directors Association and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, has posted a statement of support on the RCFP Web site stating: "We support the reporters in current federal court proceedings who are refusing to testify about their confidential sources and now face stiff fines, even jail. We commend these reporters for standing firm and standing up for First Amendment principles."

The petition was prompted in part by the Aug. 18 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to start fining a group of five reporters, led by ex-CNN and now ABC reporter Pierre Thomas, $500 per day apiece until they revealed their sources in reporting on the Wen Ho Lee case. The fines have been stayed pending appeal.

Also cited were the investigations into the leak to columnist Robert Novak of the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame (which led to subpoenas of journalists including NBC's Tim Russert), and a contempt citation (and $1,000-a-day fine) against WJAR-TV reporter Jim Taricani for refusing to reveal the source of a leaked videotape that showed a former city government official taking a bribe.

RTNDA President Barbara Cochran calls the rulings disturbing, saying they "could make whistleblowers less likely to come forward in the future."

Journalists wishing to sign the statement of support can do so at http://www.rcfp.org/standup/

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