Veteran Reporter Catherine Herridge Held in Contempt for Refusing to Disclose News Source

Aldgra Fredly
By Aldgra Fredly
March 1, 2024US News
Veteran Reporter Catherine Herridge Held in Contempt for Refusing to Disclose News Source
Catherine Herridge attends the White House Correspondents’ Dinner after-party at the Residence of the French Ambassador in Washington on April 30, 2022. (Shedrick Pelt/Getty Images)

A federal judge found veteran reporter Catherine Herridge in contempt of court on Thursday for refusing to identify the sources she used for a 2017 investigative series relating to an FBI probe into a Chinese scientist.

Ms. Herridge wrote the investigative series on Chinese scientist Yanping Chen during her tenure at Fox News. She transitioned from Fox News to CBS News in 2019 but was recently laid off from CBS News.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington ordered Ms. Herridge to pay an $800 fine per day until she divulges her sources. She will be given time to appeal before the fine goes into effect.

In his 24-page ruling, Judge Cooper said that he recognizes “the paramount importance of a free press” and the need to use confidential sources in investigative journalism, but that the court also has “its own role to play in upholding the law and safeguarding judicial authority.”

“Herridge and many of her colleagues in the journalism community may disagree with that decision and prefer that a different balance be struck, but she is not permitted to flout a federal court’s order with impunity,” said Judge Cooper, an appointee of former President Barrack Obama.

The source is being sought by Ms. Chen, who has sued the government over the leak of details about the federal probe into statements she made on immigration forms related to work on a Chinese astronaut program.

Lawyers representing Ms. Herridge and Fox News had argued that journalists are protected by the First Amendment from most requests and that Ms. Chen hadn’t met the threshold to override the protection.

However, the judge ruled that Ms. Chen’s “need for the requested information to vindicate her rights under the Privacy Act overcame Herridge’s qualified First Amendment reporter’s privilege in this case.”

‘Deeply Chilling’

Fox News has defended Ms. Herridge and warned that the ruling could have “a deeply chilling effect on journalism.”

“Fox News Media remains committed to protecting the rights of a free press and freedom of speech, and believes this decision should be appealed,” the company told CNN following the court’s decision.

Reporting by Ms. Herridge had focused on Ms. Chen’s alleged ties to the Chinese military, but Ms. Chen had said on immigration documents that she had never been affiliated with the military of the Chinese Communist Party. The stories also detailed the FBI investigation and said that agents and prosecutors disagreed about how the case was handled.

Ms. Chen, a naturalized U.S. citizen, founded and owned the University of Management and Technology. Multiple military members attended the university, with the Department of Defense helping to pay their tuition.

The FBI, starting in 2010, investigated Ms. Chen. Agents searched her home and the university’s main office. In 2016, prosecutors told Ms. Chen’s attorney that she would not be charged.

Ms. Chen sued the FBI, alleging the leak of information was illegal and violated the Privacy Act.

Media Union Says Herridge’s Files Have Been Returned

Meanwhile, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) said on Monday that it has monitored the return of several boxes containing Ms. Herridge’s reporting materials from her CBS News office in Washington.

“We welcome CBS News’ reversal which came after SAG-AFTRA’s intervention and widespread media coverage that underscored shared concerns about press freedom and the First Amendment,” the union said in a press release.

CBS News allegedly seized Ms. Herridge’s “files, computers, and records, including information on privileged sources,” according to an op-ed piece published on The Hill last week. A CBS spokesperson, however, claimed that the outlet had not gone through her files.

Zachary Stieber and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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