Crikey reporter Lucy Morieson writes:

In a decision that will send shock waves throughout the media, New York Times journalist Judith Miller has been jailed for refusing to name a source. A US federal judge ordered that Miller be jailed immediately after she refused to cooperate with a grand jury investigating the identity of a covert CIA operative, reports The New York Times.

Miller told the court she won’t reveal her source, no matter how long she is jailed, even though Time magazine journalist Matthew Cooper avoided a jail sentence by testifying in the same investigation.

Judge Thomas F Hogan of the Federal District Court in Washington said that Miller must be punished for refusing to testify, partly because “more than 50,000 newspaper journalists across the country could not be allowed to make their own decisions on whether to obey court orders to disclose sources,” reports The Washington Post. Under US law, it’s a felony to knowingly identify a covert CIA operative, but the case has raised the question of whether the First Amendment protects reporters in such a situation, says Poynter Online.

Judge Hogan rejected Miller’s request that she serve her detention at home, and jailed her in the District of Columbia until October – or until she decides to testify.

Meanwhile, while most of the American media has been involved in a “love-fest” for Miller, they’re forgetting about her “questionable journalistic ethics,” says Rosa Brooks in the Los Angeles Times. She might have become the “1st Amendment Martyr,” says Brooks, but it was Miller, more than any other reporter, who “helped the White House sell its WMD-in-Iraq hokum to the American public.”

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey