Nobel Peace Prize Winners Urge Obama to Halt Legal Action Against Journalist

Two winners of the Nobel Peace Prize on Monday urged President Obama to halt legal action by his administration against New York Times journalist James Risen.

In a statement addressed to Obama, the Nobel Peace Laureates — Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland and Jody Williams of the United States — said that they “urge a swift end to the US government’s legal threat of imprisonment and harsh fines for New York Times reporter James Risen, who has covered issues of war and peace.”

Maguire and Williams added: “Without confidential sources, journalism would be reduced largely to official stories and propaganda — a situation antithetical to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution that has served as a beacon of press freedom for more than two centuries, inspiring people all over the world.”

The Nobel Peace Prize winners addressed what a front-page New York Times article this summer called “the most serious confrontation between the government and the press in recent history.”

The US Department of Justice is now considering whether to attempt to force Risen to testify against an alleged source. If Risen refuses, as he has vowed to, he would likely face harsh fines or imprisonment. Risen has refused to identify a source for information about a bungled CIA operation involving flawed nuclear weapons blueprints, aimed at Iran in 2000, that appeared in his 2006 book State of War.

Here is the complete text of the statement by Maguire and Willliams, released on Monday by RootsAction.org, a US-based activist organization that has been among the groups campaigning in support of Risen:

President Barack Obama

The White House

Washington, D.C.

Dear President Obama:

Because a free press is vital for democracy and peace, we urge a swift end to the US government’s legal threat of imprisonment and harsh fines for New York Times reporter James Risen, who has covered issues of war and peace. Without confidential sources, journalism would be reduced largely to official stories and propaganda — a situation antithetical to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution that has served as a beacon of press freedom for more than two centuries, inspiring people all over the world.

We concur with the 100,000 signers of the petition submitted to the US Department of Justice on August 14, 2014, which urges you to “halt all legal action against Mr. Risen and to safeguard the freedom of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources.”

Sincerely,

Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize, 1976

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1997