Judge Orders Catherine Herridge To Turn Over Her Sources For Report

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A federal judge has demanded that former Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge reveal the name of a confidential source she used for a series of stories about an FBI investigation, causing unease among journalists.

According to CNN, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Christopher Cooper issued the ruling in response to legal action taken by Chinese American scientist Yanping Chen Frame after Herridge wrote about how the University of Management and Technology had drawn “the attention of the FBI, the Justice Department, the Pentagon, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).”

Frame alleged that federal authorities violated her privacy rights when they leaked her personal information to Herridge.

In his decision last Tuesday, Cooper acknowledged both “the vital importance of a free press” as well as “the critical role that confidential sources play in the work of investigative journalists like Herridge,” yet concluded that Frame’s need for requested evidence outweighed any First Amendment privileges afforded by press freedom.

Gabe Rottman, director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of The Press, expressed alarm at this decision to CNN: “Investigative journalism cannot function without credible assurances of confidentiality to sources… using [the Privacy Act] to breach reporter-source confidentiality poses significant risks to a free press.”

The implications that could arise from this case are far-reaching. If reporters are held accountable for their confidential sources and forced to reveal them due to legal action taken against them or their employers then it could deter potential informants from coming forward out fear that their identities may be exposed in a court setting.

This would render journalistic efforts greatly hindered and possibly ineffective. It is therefore imperative that journalist’s rights be protected so news can continue being reported accurately and without fear or threat from outside entities looking only out for their own interests.

Doug Billings, a journalist and host on Spreely TV’s The Right Side said: “Journalists and their sources should be focused on what is right or fair according to principles established by our constitution regarding freedom of speech and expression through reporting on matters deemed important enough by journalists.”

“Especially ones like Herridge who have dedicated themselves professionally to journalism as an honorable profession requiring trust between sources and reporters” Billings stated.

Reporter ordered to reveal confidential sources in sworn deposition

All this led Cooper to last Tuesday’s rule that Herridge must submit to a sworn deposition concerning the confidential source or sources that she used in her reporting.

While attorneys for Herridge and Fox News argued that the journalist’s work is covered by press freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment, Cooper disagreed.

“The Court recognizes both the vital importance of a free press and the critical role that confidential sources play in the work of investigative journalists like Herridge,” Cooper was quoted as stating.

“But applying the binding case law of this Circuit, the Court concludes that Chen’s need for the requested evidence overcomes Herridge’s qualified First Amendment privilege in this case,” he added.

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