CJFE Troubled by US Journalist Being Forced to Testify



    TORONTO, July 23 /CNW/ - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
is troubled by Judge Cormac Carney's order on July 14 for journalist William
Gertz to appear in open court this week for questioning about his sources for
an article which detailed alleged Chinese espionage in the United States.
    Gertz, a national security reporter with The Washington Post, has
repeatedly refused to reveal his sources for the May 2006 article and was told
that he would have to justify why the confidentiality is critical to his
ability to engage in investigative reporting.
    California District Court Judge Carney initially issued a subpoena on
April 30, 2008, ordering Gertz to testify regarding his source for the
article. Judge Carney stated that the article disclosed secret information
that had only been revealed before a grand jury. Lawyers for Gertz moved to
quash the subpoena, arguing that the request for the sources would interfere
with the journalist's ability to gather news.
    Gertz testified yesterday that confidentiality was absolutely essential
to his work, and that being forced to reveal his sources would infringe on his
First Amendment rights and the Reporter's Privilege. He will be back in court
tomorrow, July 24, and if the court forces him to reveal his sources, he
believes it will have a negative impact on the willingness of individuals to
come forward in the future to divulge information on issues of public
interest.
    CJFE notes that this is not the first time that a US court has forced
journalists to name their sources: on March 7, 2008, Washington DC Judge
Reggie Walton subjected Toni Locy to fines of up to $5,000 a day in order to
force her to reveal her sources for a series of stories naming a former army
scientist as a suspect in a series of anthrax attacks.
    The Free Flow of Information Act, a bill pending consideration before the
American Senate, has been designed to protect and encourage information
sharing between journalists and sources. This law would act as a shield to
journalists and their sources, protecting them from the kind of prosecution
that Gertz is currently facing.
    CJFE believes that the ability to protect the confidentiality of sources
is crucial to journalists. Journalists play a vital role in society by
exposing wrongdoing, often in cases that involve the government and the
highest authorities of a country. Without confidential sources, many public
interest stories would not be published. Confidential sources are essential to
the effective functioning of the media in a free and democratic society.

    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more
than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who
work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and
around the world.




For further information:

For further information: CJFE Manager, Julie Payne at (416) 515-9622 x.
226


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