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SPJ supports journalist's decision to keep source confidential



Emily Sweeney
, New England Chapter President, esweeney@globe.com or 617/967-7561

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Society of Professional Journalists supports television reporter Jim Taricani in his decision not to identify a confidential source. Taricani, a reporter at WJAR-TV in Providence, R.I., was recently convicted for refusing to name the tipster who gave him a videotape from an FBI investigation of Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci Jr.

"I believe Taricani did the right thing by keeping his promise to his confidential source," said Emily Sweeney, president of SPJ's New England Chapter. "In order for news organizations to maintain freedom, independence and fairness, reporters and editors, in principle, must not bow to pressures from outside groups, whether it be a private business or a government agency."

Taricani now faces up to six months in jail, after a federal judge found him guilty of criminal contempt. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 9.

Charles N. Davis, executive director of the Freedom of Information Center and co-chair of SPJ's Freedom of Information Committee, said the criminal charge against Taricani "flies in the face of a free press."

"We silence confidentiality at our peril. So many stories of critical importance will never see the light of day if our legal system fails to recognize the unique role of the news media in the discovery of truth," said Davis.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Radio-Television News Directors Association & Foundation also have issued statements supporting Taricani.

"Jim Taricani is a very well-respected, experienced television reporter," said Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of the Reporters Committee. "We know this has been a difficult decision for him, and we respect his determination to uphold a fundamental principle of journalism."

Punishing a journalist for following a story on public corruption is an affront to the First Amendment protections that allow the news media to act as a watchdog on those who wield power, said Dalglish.

"If journalists are not able to protect their sources, the public will ultimately suffer because fewer people will be willing to come forward with information about public affairs out of fear of retaliation," Dalglish said.

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

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