Press freedom organizations submitted a petition with more than 100,000 signatures to the US Department of Justice Thursday in support of New York Times reporter James Risen.
The petition demanded that the government stop all legal action against Risen, who has been involved in a six-year battle for press freedom, McClatchy DC reported Friday.
Risen has been ordered by the DOJ to testify against one of his alleged sources, former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who is believed to have given him confidential information about the CIA for his 2006 book State of War. Prosecutors believe that Sterling gave Risen specific details about a failed CIA operation in Iran that then appeared in his book. Risen has refused to name his source, stating that he would rather go to jail than "give up everything I believe in."
In a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington Thursday, Risen said that his refusal to give up the name was "for the future of journalism."
Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press's Gregg P. Leslie said at the conference that Risen's case only demonstrates that “it is time to demand Congress pass a meaningful shield law.” While a shield law at the Federal level still does not exist, an amendment approved by the House in May offered some hope. The legislation, proposed by Congressman Alan Grayson, would prevent the Department of Justice from using certain authority to force reporters to reveal confidential sources.
On Monday, more than a dozen Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists issued statements to support Risen and to challenge the Obama administrations tightened grip on press freedom.