Journalist May Be Jailed For Contempt Of Court

( – CBS reporter Catherine Herridge could be held in contempt of court for refusing to identify her sources for stories about Yanping Chen, a Chinese-American scientist that the FBI investigated but never charged.

The case could have far-reaching consequences for journalists who seek to protect their sources. Media advocates worry the decision could make sources hesitant to provide information to reporters that could reveal government wrongdoing.

After being investigated for years on the suspicion that she lied on immigration forms related to her work on a Chinese astronaut program, Chen sued the government. The investigation centered around whether Chen concealed her former membership in the Chinese military on U.S. immigration forms.

In 2017, a year after the Department of Justice told Chen she would not be charged, the stories by the then-Fox News reporter were published. The stories by Herridge investigated Chen’s alleged former ties to the Chinese military. They also examined whether Chen used a professional school she founded in Virginia to help get information about American service members for the Chinese government. According to Chen’s attorneys, the stories relied on information leaked from the FBI investigation.

In August, Herridge was ordered by the U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper to be questioned under oath about her sources used for a series of stories about Chen. In September, when Herridge was interviewed under oath by Chen’s attorney, she declined multiple times to answer questions about her sources and invoked her First Amendment rights as a member of the press.

In the August decision, Cooper wrote that “The Court recognizes” the role of confidential sources in investigative journalism. However, “Herridge’s qualified First Amendment privilege” is overruled by “Chen’s need for the requested evidence.”

Herridge’s attorney, Patrick Philbin, stated that if forced to give up her source, Herridge’s career could be damaged and her credibility destroyed.

Chen’s attorneys are now asking that Herridge be held in contempt of court by Cooper after the reporter refused to state how she acquired her information.

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