News / USA

Petitioners Call on US to Stop Legal Action against James Risen

Reporter Fights to Protect Sourcei
X
August 15, 2014 2:30 AM
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of the press, but the government and journalists sometimes clash over its meaning. Author and New York Times reporter James Risen has refused to reveal a source about a CIA operation in Iran in his 2006 book State of War despite pressure from the government. On Thursday, a petition supporting Risen was delivered to the Department of Justice in Washington. VOA’s Deborah Block was there.
Deborah Block

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of the press, but the government and journalists sometimes clash over its meaning. Author and New York Times reporter James Risen refuses to reveal a source about a CIA operation in Iran in his 2006 book State of War. Risen, who could be jailed or fined, says the First Amendment protects journalists’ sources. The government says that is not the case when national security secrets are involved. On Thursday, a petition supporting Risen was delivered to the Department of Justice in Washington. 

A stack of papers with about 100,000 names calls on the U.S. government to stop all legal action against James Risen. The online petition from advocacy group RootsAction also urges journalists to safeguard the confidentiality of their sources.

Risen's book details a Central Intelligence Agency effort to undermine Iran’s nuclear program during the administration of President George W. Bush. That administration identified the man it alleges leaked the information and subpoenaed Risen to identify his source, which he refuses to do.

Critics of these leaks say they are illegal and can jeopardize the government’s capacity to protect the public.

RootsAction co-founder Norman Solomon handed the petition to a Justice Department official.

"We want the Justice Department to stop its attempt to force James Risen to betray his sources, and we want an affirmation that the First Amendment must include the freedom of journalists to tell unofficial stories without fear of being - going to jail or hit with very harsh fines," said Solomon.

Courtney Radsch with the Committee to Protect Journalists said Risen’s journalistic integrity is crucial.

"The ability to keep sources confidential is essential to the practice of journalism, and it’s very difficult for journalists to be able to do their job, which is upholding democracy and ensuring that the government is transparent and accountable if they’re not allowed to keep their sources confidential," said Radsch.

At the National Press Club in Washington, Risen blamed the Justice Department and the Obama administration for what he called a fundamental fight over press freedom.

"So they turned this case into a showdown over the First Amendment and the freedom of the press in the United States.  So I am happy to carry on that fight but it wasn’t really me who started it," said Risen.

Risen brought his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to intervene. 

Ahmed Ghappour, a lawyer who works with the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said the Justice Department can jail or fine Risen, or resolve the situation so Risen doesn’t have to name his source.

“He broke no law in proliferating the news and publishing his articles and books.  Nor can the Justice Department make such claims. Indeed, there is no law that mandates the press to obtain government approval about lawfully acquired information,” said Ghappour.

The Justice Department has declined to comment publicly on the case. 

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid