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March 26th 2014

IWMF urges the Supreme Court to recognize journalists' protection against compelled disclosure of confidential sources

Washington, DC – Today, the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) filed an amicus curiae brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to grant Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter James Risen’s petition seeking review of a federal appeals court ruling ordering him to reveal his confidential sources in connection with the government’s prosecution of former C.I.A. analyst Jeffrey Sterling.

This case is of central importance to the IWMF because it implicates the ability of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources against compelled disclosure by the government. It also impacts the vital, constitutionally recognized role of a free press in ensuring the existence of an informed citizenry and a functioning democracy.

“In the last five years alone, the Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed the First Amendment protections for activities ranging from corporate campaign expenditures to depictions of animal cruelty, among others. But it has not considered the protections surrounding the core First Amendment functions of newsgathering and reporting in over a decade. The time to do so is now,” said Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., a partner in the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and member of the IWMF Board of Directors.

The IWMF and its Board of Directors are particularly sensitive to the perils faced by journalists worldwide who are unable to shield the identities of their confidential sources. Gwen Lister, an IWMF Courage in Journalism Award Winner, is one such example. In the 1980s, Lister worked as a political reporter in Namibia, while it was under South African rule. In 1988, when she was four months pregnant, Lister was detained by Namibian government officials for refusing to disclose her source for a confidential document that detailed a plan to give greater powers to police and institute a state of emergency in Namibia. Lister was eventually released due to international protests.

About the IWMF. Founded in 1990 by a group of prominent U.S. women journalists, the International Women’s Media Foundation is a Washington-based organization that is dedicated to strengthening the role of women journalists worldwide. The IWMF believes the news media worldwide are not truly free and representative without the equal voice of women. The IWMF celebrates the courage of women journalists who overcome threats and oppression to speak out on global issues. The IWMF’s programs empower women journalists with the training, support and network to become leaders in the news industry.

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