WASHINGTON: A New York Times journalist vowed Thursday to “keep fighting” to protect his source in a leak investigation, as supporters announced 100,000 people signed a petition in his defense.
Reporter James Risen, who faces jail for refusing to reveal his source for leaks about the CIA, spoke at a news conference organized by several press freedom organizations to rally support for his cause.
“I know really it’s not about me. It’s about basic issues that affect journalism and all Americans,” Risen said.
“What I can say now is that with all these people showing support I’m willing to keep fighting.”
Risen said he was maintaining his stand “for the future of journalism, and added, “I want to make sure the same protections I had in my career are there for the future reporters of America.”
Supporters said more than 100,000 people had signed an online petition delivered to the US Justice Department calling for an end to the prosecution.
“Your effort to compel New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal his sources is an assault on freedom of the press,” the petition said.
“Without confidentiality, journalism would be reduced to official stories — a situation antithetical to the (constitution’s) First Amendment. We urge you in the strongest terms to halt all legal action against Mr. Risen and to safeguard the freedom of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources.”
Courtney Radsch of the Committee to Protect Journalists said the effort to prosecute Risen “has a serious chilling effect on the press” and erodes US moral authority abroad.
“These type of aggressive prosecutions send a dangerous signal to governments elsewhere that would seek to use national security and antistate charges as a cover to crack down on press freedom,” she told the news conference.
“I don’t think the United States wants to join Cuba in becoming the only other country in the Western Hemisphere to have an imprisoned journalist, and that’s whats at risk here.”
Risen has refused to name the source for his account of a bungled CIA operation in Iran that appeared in his book, “State of War” about the CIA and the Bush administration.
Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case, which means Risen must face contempt of court proceedings.
Former US talk show host Phil Donahue also appeared at the news conference to support Risen’s case.
The event was organized by the activist group RootsAction and supported by Reporters Without Borders. Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and others.
On Wednesday, the Newspaper Guild said it was awarding its press freedom prize to Risen for having “risked his own freedom to protect the principles that are essential for a truly free press.”