Media Center



  June 30, 2005

Washington, D.C., June 30, 2005. The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) deplores that journalists Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine face time in prison for refusing to reveal their confidential sources in a grand jury investigation. On June 29, U.S. district judge Thomas Hogan stated he would send the reporters to prison in one week if they refused to testify. According to information received by the Office of the Special Rapporteur, both Miller and Cooper have indicated they will go to jail rather than divulge their sources.

The journalists had been subpoenaed by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who was appointed to investigate the leak of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity. In October 2004, when they refused to testify, Hogan held Miller and Cooper in contempt of court and ordered them imprisoned and fined $1,000 a day until they agreed to comply with the grand jury investigation. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. affirmed in February 2005 that Miller and Cooper had no privilege to refuse to testify. On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of the two journalists. With the appeals process exhausted, the case returned to federal district court in Washington, D.C., where Hogan held the hearing yesterday to decide when and where the two reporters will serve their time.

The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Eduardo Bertoni, recalls that in furtherance of the public’s right to information, it is imperative that journalists retain the right to confidentiality of sources. This concept is supported by Principle 8 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, which asserts, “Every social communicator has the right to keep his/her source of information, notes, personal and professional archives confidential.”

The right to confidentiality is essential to a journalist’s work in performing the important public service of collecting and disseminating information. The threat of legal action against journalists and/or their sources will ultimately produce a chilling effect on news media and will lead to a less informed general public. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that without legal guarantees of a journalist’s right to confidentiality, freedom of the press in the United States is at risk.

For the reasons stated above, the Special Rapporteur deplores the fact that two U.S. journalists now face jail time for refusing to reveal confidential sources. He also urges the U.S. to pass legislation reforming its laws in accordance with the principles of the IACHR’s Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression.

Reference: PREN-125-E