“Deeply chilling” civil contempt order for journalist

Fox News, a U.S. television network, believes it should appeal a court ruling finding one of its former journalists in civil contempt. Catherine Herridge was found in civil contempt by a federal court on Thursday for her refusal to provide a crucial source for an investigative series that Fox News ran in 2017. The judge fined Herridge $800 every day until he obeyed. To give the journalist time to file an appeal, the fine will not be applied immediately. In a statement provided to VOA on Friday, Fox News stated that the ruling has unsettling ramifications for the media.

 

A Fox News representative stated, “Holding a journalist in contempt for defending a confidential source has a deeply chilling effect on journalism.” “Fox News Media thinks that this decision should be appealed and is steadfast in its commitment to upholding the rights of free speech and the press. The lawsuit revolves around a slew of pieces that Herridge wrote for Fox News in 2017 concerning Yanping Chen, a Chinese American scientist that the FBI looked into but never brought charges against. Herridge looked into Chen’s connections to the Chinese military and questioned if the scientist was giving the Chinese government access to information about American service members through a professional school she founded in Virginia.

 

The Associated Press reported that the stories were based on material that Chen’s attorneys claim was leaked from the investigation. This material included excerpts from an FBI document that summarized an interview that took place during the probe, personal photos of Chen, information from his immigration and naturalization forms, and information from an internal FBI PowerPoint presentation. 2018 saw Chen file lawsuits against the FBI and Justice Department, claiming that selected leaks of her personal data were done to “smear her reputation and damage her livelihood.” U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper stated in his ruling against Herridge on Thursday that he “recognizes the paramount importance of a free press in our society” and that confidential sources play a crucial role in investigative journalism.

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