Fox Reporter Faces Potential Jail In Protection Of Her Sources

jana-winterPrisonCellA classic confrontation is occurring in Arizona over the freedom of the press. reporter Jana Winter is standing by fundamental principles of journalism in refusing to disclose who gave her a notebook that a judge had put under a protective order in the case of Colorado shooter James Holmes. Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour is pursuing other avenues for the time being in trying to find out who leaked the notebook, but Winter could still be put on the bench and held in contempt for a failure to disclose her source.

James Holmes sent the notebook to his psychiatrist before he allegedly killed 12 movie theatergoers.

Earlier Arapahoe County Judge William Sylvester denied the motion of the New York-based reporter to postpone her appearance pending her appeal in a New York appellate court to quash the subpoena for her to testify in Colorado.

Holmes’ team is trying to learn who leaked the notebook. However, Colorado does have a shield law as does New York. I have previously testified in Congress on the need for such law, particularly in the federal system, to protect basic press freedoms. For a prior column, click here and for former testimony, here.

Winter and Fox are standing firm on journalistic principles in protecting the source of the information. Colorado law (below) offers a qualified immunity for journalists that would seem to cover this circumstance. Winter’s story cited unnamed law enforcement sources on the content of the notebook.

Winter’s source could still face disclosure from the ongoing investigation but there should be no effort to jail Winter for protecting journalistic confidentiality and sources. Hopefully, the judge will reconsider efforts to coerce her testimony by giving her the choice of maintaining journalistic principles and losing her freedom with a jail stint. This is precisely why we have such laws and reporters have shown a long and proud tradition in this country of protecting sources even in the face of their own incarceration.

Here is the Colorado Shield Law:

The Colorado Press Shield Law, C.R.S. § 13-90-119 states as follows:
(1) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires:
(a) “Mass medium” means any publisher of a newspaper or periodical; wire service; radio or television station or network; news or feature syndicate; or cable television system.
(b) “News information” means any knowledge, observation, notes, documents, photographs, films, recordings, videotapes, audiotapes, and reports, and the contents and sources thereof, obtained by a newsperson while engaged as such, regardless of whether such items have been provided to or obtained by such newsperson in confidence.
(c) “Newsperson” means any member of the mass media and any employee or independent contractor of a member of the mass media who is engaged to gather, receive, observe, process, prepare, write, or edit news information for dissemination to the public through the mass media.
(d) “Press conference” means any meeting or event called for the purpose of issuing a public statement to members of the mass media, and to which members of the mass media are invited in advance.
(e) “Proceeding” means any civil or criminal investigation, discovery procedure, hearing, trial, or other process for obtaining information conducted by, before, or under the authority of any judicial body of the state of Colorado. Such term shall not include any investigation, hearing, or other process for obtaining information conducted by, before, or under the authority of the general assembly.
(f) “Source” means any person from whom or any means by or through which news information is received or procured by a newsperson, while engaged as such, regardless of whether such newsperson was requested to hold confidential the identity of such person or means.
(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary and except as provided in subsection (3) of this section, no newsperson shall, without such newsperson’s express consent, be compelled to disclose, be examined concerning refusal to disclose, be subjected to any legal presumption of any kind, or be cited, held in contempt, punished, or subjected to any sanction in any judicial proceedings for refusal to disclose any news information received, observed, procured, processed, prepared, written, or edited by a newsperson, while acting in the capacity of a newsperson; except that the privilege of nondisclosure shall not apply to the following:
(a) News information received at a press conference;
(b) News information which has actually been published or broadcast through a medium of mass communication;
(c) News information based on a newsperson’s personal observation of the commission of a crime if substantially similar news information cannot reasonably be obtained by any other means;
(d) News information based on a newsperson’s personal observation of the commission of a class 1, 2, or 3 felony.
(3) Notwithstanding the privilege of nondisclosure granted in subsection (2) of this section, any party to a proceeding who is otherwise authorized by law to issue or obtain subpoenas may subpoena a newsperson in order to obtain news information by establishing by a preponderance of the evidence, in opposition to a newsperson’s motion to quash such subpoena:
(a) That the news information is directly relevant to a substantial issue involved in the proceeding;
(b) That the news information cannot be obtained by any other reasonable means; and
(c) That a strong interest of the party seeking to subpoena the newsperson outweighs the interests under the first amendment to the United States constitution of such newsperson in not responding to a subpoena and of the general public in receiving news information.
(4) The privilege of nondisclosure established by subsection (2) of this section may be waived only by the voluntary testimony or disclosure of a newsperson that directly addresses the news information or identifies the source of such news information sought. A publication or broadcast of a news report through the mass media concerning the subject area of the news information sought, but which does not directly address the specific news information sought, shall not be deemed a waiver of the privilege of nondisclosure as to such specific news information.
(5) In any trial to a jury in an action in which a newsperson is a party as a result of such person’s activities as a newsperson and in which the newsperson has invoked the privilege created by subsection (2) of this section, the jury shall be neither informed nor allowed to learn that such newsperson invoked such privilege or has thereby declined to disclose any news information.
(6) Nothing in this section shall preclude the issuance of a search warrant in compliance with the federal “Privacy Protection Act of 1980”, 42 U.S.C. sec. 2000aa.

Source: Fox

30 thoughts on “Fox Reporter Faces Potential Jail In Protection Of Her Sources”

  1. The U.S. has a Stasi-like apparatus that is operational in communities all across this country. But, hey, it couldn’t happen here, right?

    Whistle-Blowers Tell Stories of Fear and Vindication

    By Gary Feuerberg
    Epoch Times Staff


    WASHINGTON—Whistle-blowers risk their careers, fortunes, reputations, and sometimes their freedom. They are public or corporate employees, who witness waste, fraud, and abuse of the law, and decide to go public with the information.

    Whistle-blowers Thomas Drake and Rick Piltz spoke last week at the American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability.

    “When you know that you’re being watched by the government, and they are assuming you are a criminal … the ringleader of the disclosure to the New York Times regarding the secret surveillance program … life gets darker and darker,” Drake said.

    Although Drake agreed with the Times story, ironically, he was not the source, he said.


    Piltz Battle With the White House

    Rick Piltz never faced the threat of 35 years in imprisonment as Drake did. But he suffered the loss of his job and income and was socially isolated.

    From 1995–2005, Piltz was a senior associate in the coordination office of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. His job was to take the work of leading climate change scientists and communicate it to the policymakers, Congress, and the White House. He was preparing the annual report for Congress when shortly before its publication, the White House told him to “take pages out” and remove all references to the recently completed international scientific assessment of climate change by dozens of scientists.

    The Bush administration wanted him to remove all discussion of the effects of global warming on the United States. The White House Counsel on Environmental Quality, which formerly had been an oil industry lobbyist, edited Piltz’s document, playing down the global warming problem and the impacts of climate change. The counsel was “misrepresenting the intelligence to conform to what they had already decided to do politically,” Piltz said.

    After getting the cold shoulder from his superiors and colleagues, Piltz resigned. He eventually told his story to a New York Times reporter he trusted and it became a sensational front page story.

    About the decision to go public, Piltz said, “I thought about it for a long time.” He advised others not to do anything rash and to think very carefully. He would do it again. “I could not, not do it,” he said.

    GAP travels to university campuses “to raise awareness of the vital role whistleblowing has in our democracy.” Founded in 1977 and based in Washington, D.C., GAP is an advocacy group, nonprofit, and politically nonpartisan, that educates the public about whistle-blowing.

    In addition to promoting whistle-blowing on college campuses and in preparing materials for college curriculum, GAP is a law firm that represents whistle-blowers, explained Louis Clark, president of GAP.

  2. Elaine is correct. The local Fox news stations in Madison and San Diego seem pretty straight. Most local news affiliates seem quite autonomous from their network philosophy IMHO.

  3. Seems the reporter most likely got her information from LE. So doesn’t LE do investigations for various crimes? Oh, right, against themselves they seem to come up with nothing. No point going down that trail. Ok, throw her in jail and waterboard her until she names the judge as her source. [sarcasm]

    The article also points out that Judy Miller, formerly w/ NYTimes articles on Iraq’s WMDs, is now a FOX contributor.

    The Monsanto protection act, written by Monsanto and tucked into another bill at the last moment. Monsanto, the company that brought us Agent Orange, the company that is banned in several countries.

  4. This from Media Matters:

    Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson pushed the right-wing media’s false claim that an increase in government employment made up the bulk of job growth during the economic recovery. The private sector, however, has added millions of jobs since 2009 while the public sector has shed hundreds of thousands of them.

    (Fox Host Refuses To Acknowledge Economic Reality).

  5. “…And no other news organization lies like fox?”

    Other than Tass, NO.

  6. Anonymous, exactly.
    How many major news reporters are covering Mr. O signing the Monsanto protection act? How many major news organizations covered our Presidents kill list? I don’t care who reports it, just report it please.

  7. I don’t give a rat’s you-know-what who breaks a story if it’s true. America has a whopper of a secret that needs to see daylight. FOX? Anyone?

    “Williams, now a senior reporter for the California-based Center for Investigative Reporting, told dealing with confidential sources is an important part of the job.

    “If a judge can just drag you into court and make you give up the person who gave you information anytime he feels like it, we’re not going to get help from people who have important information,” Williams said. “Ultimately, the community suffers.””

  8. Going with Blouse on this one… and a nod for people “doing the right thing” (Paul).

  9. Paul,

    If you haven’t figured out that the MSM are all a bunch of paid propagandists yet, you simply aren’t paying attention, however, who she works for is indeed relevant considering parts of her parent organization are facing criminal charges abroad and criminal probes here regarding illegal wire tapping. There is general dishonesty in media and then there are organizations involved in criminal activity. All of the MSM pretty much sucks, but FoxNews sucks worst of them all. They are standing on principle now simply because if they don’t, they impair their ability to get information to publish. It’s more of a business decision than an ethical decision.

  10. And no other news organization lies like fox? Please, open your eyes. My eyes were opened about false news when NBC put a fuse in a pickup truck fuel tank to blow it up to show how unsafe their pickup truck was. I have seen MSNBC purposely misquote people to make false claims. So let;s see, pick on fox because we dont like their politics but let MSNBC, CBS, NBC, CNN, ABC, etc. off? Like I said, every news organization has issues I may disagree with on occasion. Every news organization also has good people trying to do the right thing.

    This post is about a person that appears to be doing the right thing, what news organization she belongs to is of no bearing.

  11. What Blouise said.

    And David too. FoxNews is not truly news. They put massive amounts of conservative editorializing within news stories and editorializing isn’t news. At best, it’s opinion, at worst it’s propaganda. That they fall on the correct side of this particular issue is legal happenstance and a necessity for doing business in what passes for journalism these days. Freedom of the Press is a fundamentally protected Constitutional right. The issue of the need for a Federal shield law should have long ago been settled.

  12. Paul, there is a large difference between being ‘pure’ and the sort of party driven propaganda foisted on this country by FAUX News. Its the difference between having a point of view and flat out lies. FAUX has been discovered to lie so regularly that they fall well outside the failings of any other mdeia outlet.

  13. This is a scary situation for her though, perhaps, anticipated by the editorial/news staff when the decision was made to use the notebook.

    This is one of those small battles that when fought go a long way in protecting freedoms for all of us. I wish her well.

  14. I knew it wouldn’t take long for an anti fox bigot to speak out. Can we all agree that there isn’t a single news organization in the world that is pure? Can we also agree that pretty much every news organization in the world probably has some pretty good people as well?
    The anti fox bigots are getting a little long in the teeth, time to move on and quite being so juvenile.

  15. “Winter and Fox are standing firm on journalistic principles in protecting the source of the information”

    Fox and journalistic principles, never thought I’d see those two words in the same sentence.

Comments are closed.