The is No Comfort behind the Shield

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The media depends on citizens to supply them with knowledge of public concern. Citizens may consent to be quoted as the source of information in some situations, but refuse to be quoted in others due to the importance of the information that they have exchanged. This is particularly true for government matters that the source believes are significant enough to discuss with the media.

Citizens chose to remain anonymous for a variety of reasons, including the need to protect their own lives in highly controversial situations involving influential individuals in their respective countries. Journalists have the freedom to defend their information in certain nations and under international law. A journalist who wants information therefore chooses to withhold the identity of the source so that they can be able to get the information that they require. In some cases a confidentiality agreement is signed where the journalist assures the source of anonymity. However the confidentiality agreement can be waivered through the consent of the source to reveal their identity.

One such journalist that found herself in such a predicament is Judith miller, an investigative journalist at the time with the New York Times. She is well known for her anti-Islamic writings and one of her works that got her into trouble was a series of articles that covered Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program both before and after the war. Miller had been to Iraq with American military team on an expedition to find evidence of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The operation was unsuccessful, proving that miller’s sources gave her the wrong information. The United States president at the time president George W bush had stated in his state of union address that Iraq was pursuing uranium in Africa. Miller’s articles on the weapons of mass destruction were seen to have contributed in the war in Iraq. Mr. Joseph Wilson who was known to be a critic of the president wrote an opinion article at the times stating accusing the white house at twisting intelligence in order to exaggerate the Iraqi threat. In retaliation for public critic that was led by her husband, the white house is alleged to have leaked of his wife Valerie Plame, a covert CIA agents that had specialized in the weapons of mass destruction.

Judith miller was therefore asked to reveal her source an offer which she refused that led her to jail for more than two months. She stated that she was committed to the confidentiality agreement that she had signed and was prepared to honor it. She later, through her lawyers reached out to her source who was Mr. Libby who was the chief of staff for the office of the vice president to grant her a waiver in the confidential agreement. Mr. Libby did this and she was later released.

Protecting Libby was a very honorable thing that miller did. Protection of sources is vital for the freedom of the press. The fact that they had signed a confidential agreement blocked miller from revealing her source. She stood up for professionalism as a journalist and adhered to her work ethics by not revealing Libby. The protection of sources leads to press freedom which is clearly expressed in the universal declaration of human rights that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and oppression this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers. Revealing a source can deter other people who have information from coming forth to avail the information. Therefore when Libby refused to reveal her source in the first place it might have encouraged other people who have information to avail it to the general public.

The fact that miller refused to reveal her source even after her previous sources had provided her the wrong information was very honorable. Miller later revealed that she had used her sources countless times providing the correct information and it is the same sources that had eventually led to her being awarded a Pulitzer Prize. She has revealed that intelligence analysts and policy makers had relied on the same source that she had that is why she trusted them. When a journalist reveals a source it leads other people to become fearful and therefore the public is deprived important information about the government or other powerful institutions making the public to suffer as the end result. By doing this miller did not lose her credibility as a journalist.

Going to jail because of her refusal to reveal the source was the right thing for her to do. She chose a path that was painful and lonely both for her and her friends and family. Though some might assume that she placed herself above the law by rejecting the order that wanted her to testify but accepting her sentence made miller bow down to authority of the court. She was willing to do the good to defy a legal but unjust order. She defended the right for the citizens of the United States to get important information from the media houses. She sacrificed herself to alert the public of the need to protect the tools that reporters do in order to protect their work. She had protected the confidentiality of the source on whom she had given her word.

Agreeing to go to jail to protect her source upheld the reputation of journalists in protecting their sources. People who had previously doubted journalists had a new found respect for journalism. She helped to set the right perspective on what journalism is really about therefore providing those who had aspired to that career direction of what journalism is all about.

Miller is an honorable journalist in agreeing to protect her source. Not all journalists would have agreed to go to jail to protect their sources, this was therefore a very selfless act that deserved respect. She stood on her own word which was very commendable on her part. She was willing to endure nights of loneliness in prison and the loss of her freedom all because she had signed a confidentiality agreement to protect her source. Her act was very instrumental in changing the way people viewed journalism. Due to her act sources who have information will be willing to share their information because they are guaranteed of anonymity.

Protection of sources is a very important thing to do, this is because they provide information that government or powerful government officers do not want to be made to the public. Although miller eventually received a waiver in the confidentiality agreement what she did was very commendable and sets a good example to other journalist. Although others will argue that it was not necessary for her to go court in the first place because she was eventually granted a waiver. Such acts should therefore not be punished but instead be encouraged to ensure that crucial information is available to the public.

Work cited

"CNN.Com - Miller: Went To Jail For 'The Public's Right To Know' - Oct 5, 2005." Edition.Cnn.Com, 2017,

"Interviews - Judith Miller's Controversial Role | News War | FRONTLINE | PBS." Pbs.Org, 2017,

"Key Players in the Valerie Plame Affair." Washingtonpost.Com, 2017,

"Universal Declaration of Human Rights." Un.Org, 2017,

Don van Natta Jr., Adam Lepta and Clifford J. Levy. "The Miller Case: A Notebook, A Cause, A Jail Cell And A Deal." Nytimes.Com, 2017,

Liptak, Adam. "Reporter Jailed After Refusing To Name Source." Nytimes.Com, 2017,

January 25, 2023



News media

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