Press freedom groups urge US to halt legal action against NY Times reporter

Last modified: Thursday, August 14, 2014
WASHINGTON — For six years James Risen, a reporter for The New York Times, has been battling prosecutors who want him to identify an anonymous source. And despite his setbacks, he’s willing to keep fighting.

“The real reason I’m doing this is for the future of journalism,” Risen said Thursday during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.

Risen spoke just hours after a coalition of press freedom organizations submitted more than 100,000 signatures to the U.S. Department of Justice. In the petition, press advocacy groups urged the government to halt legal actions against Risen, who has been in the past asked to testify in the case of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA employee charged with leaking classified information.

Among various things, Sterling is accused of releasing classified information used in Risen’s 2006 book “State of War,” in which the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter described a failed CIA plan to harm an Iranian nuclear program.

Risen has been asked to identify his sources since he was first subpoenaed in 2008. He has declined while calling for First Amendment protections, to no avail. In June, Risen exhausted his legal appeals when the Supreme Court refused to hear his case.

As result, Risen is now part of a long list of journalists who have risked fines or even jail time for keeping the confidentiality of sources. Just last year a New York-based Fox News reporter covering the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., risked similar penalties when she declined to identify an unnamed source to defense lawyers.

— McClatchy News Service