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Statement from the Society of Professional Journalists on Miller and Cooper cases
Contact: Irwin Gratz, President, (207) 329-6203 or firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS – Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 6th, at least one, possibly two reporters are likely to be sentenced to spend time in federal prison for resisting the order of a court to testify before a grand jury.
The reporters, Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine have refused to testify about the sources to whom they granted anonymity. Cooper’s employer, Time, last week agreed to turn over Cooper’s notes as demanded by the court.
The Newspaper Guild has asked industry workers to pause and stand for two minutes of silence at noon on Wednesday. In addition, the Guild has asked its local unions to conduct one-hour vigils outside Federal Courthouses.
As President of the Society of Professional Journalists, I am asking its members, and all journalists, to mark the appointed time as you see fit. And I ask the public to ponder the potential impact of this action on the practice of journalism in the United States.
The SPJ Code of Ethics says our members believe “public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.” Anonymous sources are sometimes necessary in ferreting out vital information on the operation of our governments, and the integrity of the profession and its mission in informing the public are jeopardized when journalists don’t honor their promises of confidentiality to those sources. The Society believes anonymity should not be bestowed lightly, that sources’ motives must always be questioned before granting anonymity and that the public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability. Although we deplore the overreliance on anonymous sources, we nevertheless stand with those principled professionals who refuse to abandon their promises of confidentiality to their sources when the government applies pressure.
Both Cooper and Miller are due to join us at our SPJ Convention and National Journalism Conference in mid-October. Since the term of the Grand Jury expires in that month, it is still our hope both will be able to join us and receive, in person, our tribute for their principled stand.
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.