Friday, August 31, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 8


 
 









 

Staff Editorial



EDITORIAL BOARD

Crystal J. Doucette        Ed De La Garza 
Ken Fountain     Nikie Johnson       Ellen Simonson


Source protection

The First Amendment guarantees, among other things, the freedom of the press. Inherent in that freedom is the right of reporters to
protect the identity of their sources.

A disturbing pattern of interference with the rights of journalists to protect their sources has been established by the Bush
presidency.

The Justice Department subpoenaed the home telephone records of John Solomon, an Associated Press reporter, for the period in
which Solomon wrote about an investigation of Sen. Robert Torricelli.

A May 4 AP story written by Solomon quoted unidentified law enforcement officials saying Torricelli was recorded on a wiretap in
1996 discussing fund raising with the family of a prominent Chicago crime figure.

Louis D. Boccardi, AP president and CEO said, "(The Justice Department's) actions fly in the face of long-standing policy that
recognizes what a serious step it is to go after a reporter's phone records."

First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrahms said a Justice Department subpoena of a journalist's phone records was extremely rare.

"There's no doubt that the decision of the government to go so far as to obtain these telephone records raises constitutional
questions of a high order of delicacy," Abrahms said.

Coupled with the imprisonment of Vanessa Leggett, a writer conducting research for a book about a murder in Texas, legal scholars
have become increasingly concerned about the courts undermining the First Amendment.

Gregg Leslie, legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the Ashcroft Justice Department is
sending a bad signal.

Leslie asserts the Bush administration is reopening avenues of investigation concerning journalists that the media hoped had been
resolved.

The Constitution is a vibrant and dynamic document, subject to interpretations by each succeeding generation of Supreme Court
justices. 

It's the responsibility of every American to insure that such infringement on the inherent First Amendment rights of reporters to protect
their sources doesn't go unchecked.

Forcing reporters to name their sources would gut the power of the press to report the news. Without sources to report wrongdoing,
the press would be impotent to present the public with timely and factual news.
 
 

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