Don’t Force Journalists to Reveal their Sources


Target: Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner

Goal: Protect journalists from having to face jail time for refusing to reveal their sources to government agencies

The US Department of Justice is attacking Pulitzer prize winning journalist James Risen for not revealing his sources to a book he wrote in 2006 about a botched CIA operation. Risen is facing jail time or hefty fines if he does not comply with the government’s demands. This threatens the First Amendment freedom of journalists and Americans everywhere and must be stopped.

Reporters like Risen should be praised for exposing the secrets of our government. However, the government is now attempting to force journalists to reveal their sources so it can ensure that no more of its secrets are uncovered. This is making journalists scared to do their job as they could be threatened with imprisonment by the government. The Justice Department continues to argue that there is “no such thing as a reporter’s privilege.” But reporters need this privilege to hold the government accountable for its crimes, injustices, and the secrets it keeps from the American people. Of course the Justice Department makes this argument so journalists cannot poke their noses into the government’s business. But if journalists cannot hold the government accountable by revealing its secrets to the people, who will? If the right of freedom of press is taken away, it will be a giant step towards tyranny. The government would be able to do whatever it wanted and if someone tried to find out what it was doing, he or she would be punished by imprisonment. From here, it would not be long until anyone who spoke out against the government would be imprisoned and we would live in a police state.

Journalists who hold the government accountable are vital to a true democracy. Risen has vowed to go to jail before revealing his sources and said, “The real reason I’m doing this is for the future of journalism.” This case has already affected journalism and made reporters’ jobs harder. Many formerly trusted sources are now afraid to talk to journalists, regardless of whether or not the issue is about national security.  They are scared of the government using force to protect its secrets from the people.

Journalists have the very important task of holding the government accountable and this freedom of press must be protected. Urge Congress to pass a shield law that would protect this fundamental right and ensure the safety of future journalism.


Dear Speaker Boehner ,

The case of journalist James Risen is ridiculous and frightening. The Department of Justice should not be allowed to force journalists to reveal their sources on threat of imprisonment as this is violating the First Amendment.

Journalists are vital for the functioning of a real democracy. Journalists have a crucial role to play by holding the government accountable for its wrongdoings and injustices. The only way to do this is by investigating and uncovering the government’s secrets. Otherwise the people will never know the crimes committed by their government. If we still hope to call ourselves a true democracy then it is the job of Congress to pass a shield law protecting the freedom of press and the First Amendment.

If journalists begin to be imprisoned for doing their job, we will no longer be a democracy. Please pass a law to protect journalists and the First Amendment.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: worker via Openclipart

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