Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Committee To Imprison Journalists

Newsmax reported (never thought I'd put those two words together) on Monday that James Carville, in an appearance earlier that day on the Imus radio show, speculated that Plame leak Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald might be "coming after more people at the New York Times."

"Calling Fitzgerald "relentless," the Clintonista-turned-CNN commentator told radio host Don Imus: "My sense is he's coming after more people at the New York Times. He's going subpoena Bill Keller and all of them and ask them what Judy Miller told them. And if they don't talk, he's going to stick them in jail."


"Carville said there was "heavy, heavy speculation out there" that Miller was being used by the White House to "disseminate this" - an apparent reference to CIA employee Valerie Plame's name."

""There are all sorts of rumors and I hear second hand that [Miller] was screaming out in the news room about this.""

"The Times, said Carville, "to some extent is going to have to come clean. Because they're going to have to tell us what Judy Miller knew, when she knew it and who she told."


""It's going to be very interesting to see," Carville mused, "whether [Miller's] problem is a First Amendment [problem] - i.e., I want to protect a source - or a Fifth Amendment [problem] - I was out spreading this stuff too.""

I don't trust Newsmax. So I listened to the twenty minute audio clip myself (WFAN Real Audio link) but - surprisingly - they pretty much captured Carville's comments correctly.

Left out of the Newsmax article were two additional, related comments by Carville that occurred later on in the conversation:

"My sense is his next move is he might start subpoenaing other people at The New York Times about conversations that they had with Judy Miller."


"There’s a good deal of unhappiness in the ranks of The New York Times about that; that they have not reported journalistically on exactly what her role is in all of this."

Some of the folks at Daily Kos are giddy and gleeful about such a scenario: the possible imprisonment of more New York Timesers who they blame for lying before, during, and - if there is an - after the illegal invasion of Iraq.

This (unedited) comment was left by Feral Dem:

"I'd like to see Keller thorwn in prison. ANd hiw about WIlliam Safire while we're at it. You KNOW Miller and Safire dished about Plame. If I were advising Fitz, I'd tell him to subpoena Safire -- NOW!"

I left a comment wondering if that was snark - whether Feral Dem really thought subpoenas should be doled out on the basis of no facts and just hunches - but no one seems to have a problem with that.

This comment was left by Knut Wicksell:

"There was a particularly sanctimonious editorial today in the Times on governments 'persecuting' the press. It seemed a little out of place, since they have already run them in support in Ms Miller. So I think this was probably a reaction to the news that they are going to be served with a subpoena."

Actually - in my estranged and isolated opinion - the editorial in yesterday's copy of The New York Times kicked major ass.

From Leading by Example:

"The United States is used to representing the high road when it comes to freedom of the press. If it fails to set the right example, countries with weaker traditions of civic rights are bound to notice. As the New York Times reporter Judith Miller enters her fifth week in jail for refusing to disclose a source, the repercussions are being felt abroad."

"In the days after Ms. Miller's arrest, the Committee to Protect Journalists found that three countries harassed or jailed journalists while pressuring them to reveal their sources. In Burundi, government authorities jailed the journalist Etienne Ndikuriyo - for a story questioning the health of the president. According to the journalist group, Mr. Ndikuriyo said that while in jail, police interrogators kept demanding that he reveal his sources; he refused. He was released after a week but faces criminal charges."

"In Nepal, a police inspector demanded that one newspaper editor reveal his sources for a report on fighting between the government and Maoist rebels. In another incident, two military officers demanded that an editor of a new weekly reveal sources for an article. And in Serbia and Montenegro, two police officers visited an independent daily newspaper demanding that the editor tell them the source of information for an article identifying where Gen. Ratko Mladic, the indicted war criminal, might be hiding."

"Commentators close to autocratic rulers are using the jailing of Ms. Miller "to legitimize gross and continuous press freedom violations" all over the world, said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. "We've heard from journalists in other countries raising alarms that if the U.S., which has the freest press in the world, is going to imprison journalists, then it's fair game for everyone else."

On July 28th, the Committee to Protect Journalists released the following statement just after its chairman, Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger, Tom Brokaw and the Executive Director for CPJ, Ann Cooper, visited Judith Miller for a half-hour at the Alexandria Detention Center:

"The Committee to Protect Journalists strenuously protests the imprisonment of New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Monitoring the jailing of journalists is one of the committee's main missions. According to CPJ research, more than 120 journalists were in jail around the world at the beginning of 2005, primarily in China, Cuba, Eritrea, and other countries where journalists are frequently locked up in the course of practicing their profession."

"In jailing Ms. Miller, the U.S. government is not only undermining the ability of a free press to function in this country but also sending a signal to other governments that such a course is acceptable when dealing with journalists of whose actions they do not approve."

"We, the members of the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists, urge Judith Miller's immediate release."

Surely, that's pure hyberbole. The imprisonment of Judith Miller will not set some sort of precedent which other countries will use to justify the muzzling of the press - or worse.

Yep. Go ahead. Keep getting giddy and gleeful. Nothing to worry about.

Don't mind yesterday's news alert issued by CPJ. There can't possibly be any reason to believe that CPJ isn't being hyperbolic:

"Ethiopia's Supreme Court has sentenced a newspaper editor to one month in jail on a contempt charge after the editor refused to identify an unnamed source who criticized an earlier court ruling. The editor of a second paper was fined in a related case."

"Tamrat Serbesa, editor-in-chief of the private Amharic-language weekly Satanaw, was sentenced Friday in connection with the paper's coverage of a Supreme Court verdict in a case involving the National Election Board. The court rejected the opposition CUD party's claim that the election board improperly announced provisional results of the May 15 parliamentary elections before the final count was determined."

"On July 7, the Supreme Court ordered Serbesa and Andualem Ayle, editor-in-chief of the private Amharic-language weekly Ethiop, to reveal the sources of anonymous quotes published in their newspapers criticizing the verdict, including one in Satanaw attributed to an unnamed lawyer who deemed the verdict "shameful.""

"Ayle was ordered to pay a fine of 2,000 birr (US$220) in Friday's decision."

""In pursuing this contempt case, the court was clearly intent on punishing those who would dare criticize its rulings. It sends a chilling signal to the entire Ethiopian press corps that the court will not tolerate public scrutiny," said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. "We call on Ethiopian authorities to release Tamrat Serbesa immediately and unconditionally.""

"The charge was brought amid a government crackdown on Ethiopia's private press following the disputed election. Since deadly clashes between government security forces and opposition supporters erupted in early June, authorities have pressed criminal charges against more than 10 editors from the Amharic-language press in connection with their coverage of the election's aftermath. Many other journalists report being harassed or otherwise intimidated for their coverage."

Some bloggers preach to their choir. I guess I'm just whistling in the wind. No one seems to give a shit that "freedom of the press" may be about to become a quaint relic, not only in America but all over the world.


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