Writers Group Won’t Give Judith Miller ‘Conscience in Media’ Award After All

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By: E&P Staff

The board of The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) has voted unanimously to not endorse an earlier decision to give a Conscience in Media award to jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller, E&P has learned.

The group’s First Amendment committee had narrowly voted to give Miller the prize for her dedication to protecting sources, but the full board has now voted to not accept that decision, based on its opinion that her entire career, and even her current actions in the Plame/CIA leak case, cast doubt on her credentials for this award.

The group’s president, Jack El-Hai, posted an explanation on an internal list-serve yesterday, noting the opposition from the rank and file, and also mentioning two other reasons for the unanimous vote:

* ?A feeling that Miller’s career, taken as a whole, did not make her the best candidate for the award?

* ?Divided opinions on the board over whether her recent actions merit the award.?

The American Society of Journalists and Authors is a 50-year-old group of some 1,100 non-fiction independent writers. The earlier vote by its First Amendment committee had already prompted at least one member of that panel to quit her position.

Anita Bartholomew, a freelance journalist who has contributed to Reader’s Digest, wrote in a resignation letter, “The First Amendment is designed to prevent government interference with a free press. Miller, by shielding a government official or officials who attempted to use the press to retaliate against a whistleblower, and scare off other would-be whistleblowers, has allied herself with government interference with, and censorship of, whistleblowers. When your source IS the government, and the government is attempting to use you to target a whistleblower, the notion of shielding a source must be reconsidered. To apply standard practices regarding sources to hiding wrongdoing at the highest levels of government perverts the intent of the First Amendment.?

El-Hai told E&P at that time, “It is unusual to have this kind of disagreement about an award, but independent writers are a prickly bunch.?

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