Wednesday, October 19, 2005

MILLER CASE: Summary of Miller's speech at SPJ-Las Vegas

Source: Gene Perry, SPJ Press Notes

Judith Miller was given an SPJ First Amendment award today and spoke on
the need for a federal shield law. She also responded to criticism of her
and The New York Times, denying what she called "wild speculation" that
she was partisan, trying to protect wrongdoing or making a "canny career
move." On the controversy regarding her reporting prior to the Iraq War,
she said her sources were "mistaken on [weapons of mass destruction],
Republicans and Democrats alike, and as a result my reporting was wrong."
On her decision to testify after 85 days in jail, Miller said she weighed
whether the source was acting in good faith, whether he would personally
and convincingly grant a waiver, and whether the prosecutor would limit
testimony to the source in question. "None of the best stories I've
written ... could have been done without confidential sources," she said,
calling for a federal shield law "so we don't have to debate free will ...
while sitting in prison." After discussing her own case, Miller was joined
by panelists Josef Hebert of The Associated Press, Patricia Hurtado of
Newsday and lawyer Bruce Sanford for a session titled "The Reporter's
Privilege Under Siege." Sanford said federal law would have to determine
who qualifies as a journalist individually. "Some bloggers would be
covered, but not every single person with a blog," he said. Miller
described the current legal situation as a "full-scale assault on the
First Amendment." Miller said she always kept her notebooks before but now
thinks she might throw them out to protect against subpoenas. Reporter's
privilege is "not a privilege for us," Miller said. "It's an essential
protection for [the public]. And if they don't understand, it's not the
public's failure, it's ours."

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