Fourteen Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters recently denounced the government’s legal action against New York Times Reporter James Risen, who was ordered to testify against one of his alleged sources.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Eric Newhouse and Mark Johnson, both of whom spoke out in support of Risen, joined HuffPost Live this week and discussed the possible effects of Risen’s case.
“They are trying to chill freedom of the press by leaving [Risen] in limbo and out there in jeopardy,” Newhouse told host Alyona Minkovski. “And I think that’s a terribly bad policy decision. I think they ought to dismiss the case and apologize and let whistleblowers feel free to come forward and help correct problems.”
Johnson echoed Newhouse’s sentiments and stressed the importance of keeping a “strong, vigorous press” in the United States as part of the system of governmental checks and balances.
“When a reporter gives their word that they’re not going to reveal a source, they have to be able to follow through on that,” Johnson said. “Stories like Watergate relied on unnamed sources… and it was worth it.”
Unfortunately, cases like Risen’s are all too familiar. Newhouse explained that he has faced similar situations “a number of times.” In one instance, after writing an article that investigated a police officer’s arrest for mail fraud, the reporter was asked to reveal his sources but refused.
“The [police] chief was outraged and called on me to tell my sources to step forward and fall on their swords or else he’d seek them out, expose them and fire them,” he said.
Luckily, that didn't happen. Instead, an investigation confirmed that his story was true and the city manager formally reprimanded the police department, Newhouse said.
Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation here.
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