(AP) Press freedom advocates normally direct their wrath toward countries where harassment or abuse of journalists is the norm. Lately they have come up with a new target: the United States.
On Wednesday, a delegation from the Inter-American Press Association, a Western Hemisphere watchdog group, was making a pilgrimage to Washington to show solidarity with Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who has been jailed since July 6.
An evening meeting with Miller was planned at the Alexandria (Va.) Detention Center, where she was being held for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating the leak of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.
The mission is led by Alejo Miro Quesada, president of the IAPA and El Comercio, a Peruvian daily. The IAPA also planned to meet with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., to discuss a proposal before Congress meant to enable journalists to keep sources confidential.
Accompanying Miro Quesada is Gonzalo Marroquin, director of Prensa Libre of Guatemala and chairman of IAPA’s Freedom of the Press Committee; Diana Daniels of The Washington Post, and IAPA vice president Julio Munoz, executive director of IAPA.
In addition to the Miller case, the IAPA has followed the problems of Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who came close to being locked up for activities related to the Plame case.
The United States frequently criticizes infringements on press freedom in other countries. Recent U.S. critiques have been directed at Russia, China, Cuba, and Venezuela.
The IAPA has a long history of acting to protect press freedom in the Western Hemisphere. Recently, it has focused on the murders of two journalists in Mexico and the disappearance of a third. It also has been dealing with new laws in Venezuela that could impair press freedom and is working on Cuba’s imprisonment of more than 20 journalists.
Joining the IAPA in condemning the treatment of Miller was another pro-press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders. It decried her arrest as ”a serious violation of international law, a dangerous precedent. The United States has sent a very bad signal to the rest of the world.”
The case also has caught the attention of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of the Organization of American States.
”It is imperative that journalists retain the right to confidentiality of sources,” a release from the organization said, alluding to the Miller case.
On the Net: Inter-American Press Association site: http://www.sipiapa.org/default.cfm