03 June 2014

IAPA says US Supreme Court decision is counter to freedom of information

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Miami (June 3, 2014)—A decision by the United States Supreme Court not to mediate in a case requiring a reporter from The New York Times to name his confidential source of information “has an intimidating effect on investigative journalism and affects his credibility and the watchdog role of the press concerning government actions and matters of public interest”, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) declared today.
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Miami (June 3, 2014)—A decision by the United States Supreme Court not to mediate in a case requiring a reporter from The New York Times to name his confidential source of information “has an intimidating effect on investigative journalism and affects his credibility and the watchdog role of the press concerning government actions and matters of public interest”, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) declared today.

The Court had yesterday (June 2) decided not to hear an appeal by James Risen of a ruling by a Richmond, Virginia, court issued on July 19, 2013, which said he must testify in a criminal trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, charged with leaking government secrets. Risen, who has declared his professional commitment to protect his sources, could face imprisonment.

The former CIA officer is accused of having leaked information to Risen that would be part of a chapter of his 2006 book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration” in which there is revealed an undercover operation aimed at sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program.

The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared, “The Supreme Court decision supports the request of the Justice Department to call on the journalist to testify and identify his source of information and has an intimidating effect on investigative journalism and affects his credibility and the watchdog role of the press concerning government actions and matters of public interest.”

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, stressed that “in the practice of journalism the information of sources plays a fundamental role that those of us who work in the press have an obligation to protect” and he said he deeply regretted “the continual setback noted in the United States for the exercise of press freedom since U.S. governments, members of Congress and judges placed above all else the argument of ‘national security’ following the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.”

He added, “It is clear that the First Amendment to the Constitution, adopted by the nation’s founding fathers to prevent those in power in any way restricting the people’s freedom of expression, is not experiencing its best moment since more than a decade now. That is of great concern for the United States and for the bad example that this gives to dictators or authoritarian governments in Latin America and in other parts of the world.”

The Declaration of Chapultepec and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression establish the right not to reveal news sources as a basic principle of respect for freedom of expression and of the press.

The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.

   

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