James Risen, the New York Times reporter facing imprisonment for refusing to disclose his sources, denounced the federal government’s infringement on the press in a rare public appearance Thursday, saying it is time for journalists to “surrender or fight.”
Risen spoke to a crowd of about 300 lawyers, journalists and others at Berdahl Auditorium in Stanley Hall on Thursday evening in a talk hosted by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism titled “Prosecuting the Press.” He spoke alongside Lowell Bergman, director of the graduate school’s Investigative Reporting Program.
The lack of protection for national security reporters, he said, has allowed the federal government to demand that journalists like him reveal their sources, which threatens the integrity of the press.
“The basic issue is, can we continue as journalists to protect and offer the confidentiality to someone who knows something going on in the government but doesn’t want to go public?” he asked the audience, which included high-profile guests such as Daniel Ellsberg, the whistle-blower responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971.
Risen faces incarceration after refusing to comply with a 2008 subpoena issued by a federal grand jury demanding that he testify in the case of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. Sterling is charged with allegedly leaking information included in a chapter of Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.”