Support For Journalists Facing Jail: States, Scholars, And News Orgs File Briefs In Support Of Chronicle Reporters

Three significant amicus briefs have been filed in support of San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams who face 18 months in jail for refusing to reveal who leaked grand jury testimony to them in the Major League Baseball steroid scandal.

Twenty-four states plus Puerto Rico signed one “friend of the court” brief, filed by New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, arguing in support of state protection for reporters — and from incursions by the federal government. A second brief was filed on behalf of 36 news organizations including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, NBC, CBS, ABC and NPR and numerous related groups in publishing and journalism, and a third was filed by six First Amendment scholars, according to a report by the Chronicle.

All the briefs urged the importance of protecting press freedom as a matter of social import; the news-org brief noted that the punishment for Fainaru-Wada and Williams — a longer jail term than any of the defendants actually convicted in the steroid investigation — would “vastly exceed any previously imposed on any American journalist for declining to identify a source, and represent a clear break from the historical consensus.” As the NYT’s David Carr recently noted, the rationale behind the prison sentence is the protection of “the sanctity of the grand jury process” rather than the protection of individual journalists, or the public good in the safeguarding of their sources. The development is the latest in the ongoing and growing crisis in press freedom in this country.

Related:
Subpoenas And The Press
[NYT]
Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me The Sanctity Of The Grand Jury Process!
[ETP]
Imprisoned Vid-Blogger Josh Wolf Denied Request For Hearing, Bail
[ETP]
Press Freedom: US Drops To 53rd Place [HuffPo]

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