In Stand for Free Press, Pulitzer Journalists Declare Support for James Risen

Fourteen Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists on Monday issued statements declaring their support for New York Times reporter James Risen, who has vowed to go to jail rather than reveal a confidential source despite the U.S. Justice Department’s dogged insistence on his testimony. 

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Risen has been ordered by the Justice Department (DOJ) to testify in the prosecution of a CIA officer accused of leaking classified information about U.S. efforts to undermine Iran’s nuclear program, information that Risen revealed in his 2006 book State of War.

According to fellow reporters, Risen’s case has in many ways already done “substantial and lasting damage” to the state of journalism in the United States and threatens the very notion of our First Amendment right to Freedom of the Press. The statements were released ahead of a Thursday press conference at the National Press Club during which many of the major U.S. press freedom organizations will deliver a petition with over 100,000 signatures calling on the DOJ to drop their subpoena.

In early June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene on Risen’s behalf, despite his claim that his First Amendment rights were violated.

“Enough is enough,” says New York Times reporter David Barstow, 2013 and 2009 Pulitzer winner for Investigative Reporting and 2004 winner for Public Service. “The relentless and by all appearances vindictive effort by two administrations to force Jim Risen into betraying his sources has already done substantial and lasting damage to journalism in the United States.”

Barstow writes that he’s “felt the chill first hand” with trusted sources now scared to communicate with him, forcing him and fellow investigative reporters to “act like drug dealers, taking extreme precautions to avoid leaving any digital breadcrumbs about where we’ve been and who we’ve met.”