Quashing author’s subpoena draws praise from colleagues

The Inter American Press Association welcomed a decision by the U. S. Justice Department to drop the subpoena to journalist James Risen of The New York Times demanding he reveal his sources of information and declared that this ruling “provides a path for a deeper review of the need for a federal law being enacted to protect sources of information.”

The Justice Department Tuesday withdrew the subpoena to Risen, requiring him to disclose the identity of his confidential sources in a trial concerning the leaking of classified information. In June 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court had rejected an appeal by Risen, who cited his professional commitment to protect his sources, something for which he could face imprisonment.

Press association President Gustavo Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, expressed pleasure at the Justice Department’s decision and said that “we who practice journalism have the obligation to keep our sources confidential, those who play a key role in the information that we put at the disposal of the people, this being a moral and legal principle enshrined in several constitutions.”

Risen was called on in 2013 to give a statement in the criminal trial of former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, accused of unauthorized leaking of state secrets in violation of the espionage law. The information was reported in a book by Risen in 2006, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” in which there was revealed an undercover operation that involved an attempt to provide defective plans concerning nuclear weapons to Iranian officials.

Several press association resolutions and reports in the last few years have indicated the need to enact a shield law for the protection of news sources. It is held that a law of this nature would encourage investigative journalism, watchdog action over those in power and prevent news sources from themselves censoring their denunciations and thus reducing the transparency that a democracy demands.

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