US contempt conviction draws ire of IFJ

Jail sentence: Matthew Cooper

An American court’s decision to jail Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper for contempt after he refused to identify a source has been criticised by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), writes Ruth Addicott.

Cooper was sentenced by the Federal District Court in Washington DC after he refused to name officials in George W Bush’s administration who provided him with the name of a CIA officer.

Aidan White, general secretary of the IFJ, said: “This sort of story about alleged government misuse of power relies upon confidential sources of information. If those sources are revealed it would be harder for reporters to do their job”.

Time magazine was fined $1,000 per day for contempt of court but both the jail sentence and the fine have been suspended pending an appeal.

The sentence relates to an article in The New York Times last year which said President Bush relied on discredited intelligence when he said that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa.

In later reports, the wife of the article’s author was revealed as a CIA operative. The New York Times and Time magazine published a story criticising the administration for leaking information designed to focus public attention away from the original story.

White added: “This whole affair is about attempts to manipulate information by people in power. It is ironic that the people now facing sanctions are those who brought this matter to public attention.

“This is another case in which journalists’ rights to maintain confidentiality of sources must be protected.”

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