Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Has the Heritage Foundation Lost its Rocker?

Conservatives can respectfully disagree, even when we're diagreeable, and such can be the disposition of a crotchety, senescent men. But The Senescent Man is truly surprised, dismayed and confused by a recent post from the Heritage Foundation on Jim Taricani by Mark Tapscott, who is their director of the Center for Media and Public Policy. Tapscott writes:
Consider the case of WJAR-TV reporter Jim Taricani in Providence, R.I. Taricani was convicted Nov. 22 of criminal contempt of court for refusing to disclose a confidential source. The NBC reporter could get up to six months in jail in his Dec. 9 sentencing hearing.

Taricani’s “crime” began more than three years ago when he accepted -- and his station broadcast -- a videotape of a Providence official accepting a bribe from an undercover FBI informant. The videotape came from sealed evidence in an FBI probe that eventually resulted in criminal convictions of prominent Providence officials, including former Mayor Buddy Cianci.

A federal prosecutor demanding to know who leaked the videotape subpoenaed Taricani. A U.S. District Court judge then cited Taricani for contempt and imposed a $1,000-a-day fine when he refused to reveal his source.

After a failed appeal to a higher federal court, the District Court judge stayed the fines -- more than $85,000 paid by NBC -- and gave the reporter two weeks to cough up his source. He again refused and was convicted of criminal contempt....

Proposals for a federal shield law to protect journalists and their confidential sources are likely to be considered by Congress in 2005. There are now shield laws in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

Passage of a federal shield law would backstop the FOIA, while refocusing federal prosecutors and judges on putting criminals in government in jail -- instead of the reporters who expose the bad guys.
The Senescent Man disagrees, and still believes that the right to Due Process trumps this popular and nearly absolute "freedom" of the Press.

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