web counter Media Lies: There's always two sides....

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

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There's always two sides....

....to every coin. In the ongoing Valerie Plame, Joseph Wilson saga
A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a ruling against two reporters who could go to jail for refusing to divulge their sources about the leak of an undercover CIA officer's name.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sided with prosecutors in their attempt to compel Time magazine's Matthew Cooper and The New York Times' Judith Miller to testify before a federal grand jury about their confidential sources.

"We agree with the District Court that there is no First Amendment privilege protecting the information sought," Judge David B. Sentelle said in the ruling, which was unanimous.

Floyd Abrams, the lawyer for both reporters, said he would ask the full appeals court to reverse Tuesday's ruling. "Today's decision strikes a heavy blow against the public's right to be informed about its government," Abrams said in a statement.
The public has a right to be informed about reporters as well. If reporters can keep their sources secret, then the public has no way to verify that the reporters are telling the truth.

The argument that sources must be kept secret or they will not divulge what they know is tenuous at best. First of all, it isn't just any Tom, Dick or Harry asking for the information — it's a federal court. Claiming immunity under the First Amendment is nothing more than an attempt to prevent reporters for being accountable for what they write.

If Rathergate and Easongate (as well as the Swiftvets story and hundreds of others) have taught us anything, it's that reporters need to be assiduously fact checked as well. If reporters are allowed to keep their sources secret, even from a federal subpoena, then they can write anything they like and no one can disprove them.

While I fear too much power in the hands of the federal government, too much power in the hands of the press is equally dangerous to our nation and should be withstood with the same vigor with which we oppose federal encroachment on our rights.

UPDATE: Read Beldar's in-depth analysis of the case if you want the gory, legalese details.