2004-08-19

US-Journalisten sollen vertrauliche Quellen offen legen

--- In den USA ist ein heftiger Streit um den Umgang mit vertrauensvollen Quellen von Reportern ausgebrochen -- und damit letztlich auch um die Macht der Medien. Während sich die Vertreter der "vierten Gewalt" auf den Schutz ihrer Informanten berufen, will der Washingtoner Bezirksrichter Thomas Penfield Jackson (einigen wohl noch bekannt aus der großen Kartellrechtsklage der US-Regierung gegen Microsoft) jetzt fünf Journalisten durch das Zahlen empfindlicher Strafen zur Herausgabe der Informanten zwingen: U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered the journalists, including a reporter for The Times, to pay fines of $500 a day until each divulges information about his sources to lawyers for Wen Ho Lee, who worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The order will not be enforced while it is being appealed. ... Lee is suing the Justice and Energy departments, claiming that through a series of news leaks government officials violated his privacy by disclosing personal information that, under the Privacy Act, should not have been revealed. At the time, he had been identified as the only suspect in the alleged theft of U.S. nuclear secrets for China. Eventually the espionage case against Lee fell apart, producing a public apology from a federal judge, and the Taiwan-born naturalized U.S. citizen pleaded guilty to a single charge of mishandling classified information. Last October, Jackson ordered the five journalists to sit for questions about their sources. The reporters declined to identify their sources, setting up the contempt proceeding. ... "These are increasingly perilous days for American journalists who write about government affairs," said Floyd Abrams, a lawyer for James Risen and Jeff Gerth of the New York Times, who first reported on Lee in March 1999 and are among the journalists facing sanctions. ... "The ruling seriously jeopardizes the press' ability to report about our government's actions and the public's right to know," Martha Goldstein, The Times' vice president for communications, said in a prepared statement. "The public is best served by the full and free exercise of 1st Amendment rights. We plan to appeal the ruling." Ein schwieriger Fall, in dem es auch um die Zukunft des investigativen Journalismus geht.