Last month, more than 1,600 IRE members gathered in San Francisco for training and to discuss the biggest issues facing our craft. Chief among them was the threat of government actions against investigative journalists and their sources, as underscored by Lowell Bergman’s keynote speech, a panel on whistleblowers including Daniel Ellsberg and a showcase panel on surveillance.
Following the conference, we got a lot of inquiries from members about what they could do, specifically about New York Times reporter James Risen, who was the focus of much of Bergman’s speech. The federal government is trying to force Risen to reveal a source; Risen could face jail time if the matter is not resolved very soon.
One step we’re taking is to keep our members apprised of efforts on Risen’s behalf. A petition drive is underway to encourage Attorney General Eric Holder to halt all legal action against Risen. Here is the wording of the petition, which is supported by several organizations including the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, among others:
To: President Obama and Attorney General Holder
Your effort to compel New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal his sources is an assault on freedom of the press. Without confidentiality, journalism would be reduced to official stories — a situation antithetical to the 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.
If you wish to sign the petition, go to http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=9775.
IRE’s board has asked our Public Advocacy Committee to review steps the organization can take on Risen’s behalf. If you are aware of any ongoing efforts, or have suggestions for steps IRE can take, please contact IRE board member Andrew Dohonue at email@example.com.