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US reporters 'should face jail'

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US reporters 'should face jail'

Two US journalists should be jailed for refusing to reveal their sources in an investigation into the unmasking of a covert CIA agent, a prosecutor says.

Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time face up to 120 days in prison for contempt of court.

On Wednesday a judge is due to consider the reporters' punishment, after the Supreme Court shunned their appeal.

The prosecutor said a lesser punishment such as home confinement may encourage them to defy a court order to testify.

Patrick Fitzgerald is investigating who in the Bush administration leaked agent Valerie Plame's name in 2003, during a row over evidence used to justify war in Iraq.

Correspondents say the case is one of the most serious legal clashes between the media and government for decades.

Media concern

Time turned over Cooper's notes and other documents last week, after the Supreme Court refused to consider the case.

Cooper's lawyers argue that this move made his testimony unnecessary.

But Mr Fitzgerald demanded on Tuesday that Cooper give evidence before a grand jury investigating the leak.

He said "special treatment" for the journalists such as home detention would "enable, rather than deter, defiance of the court's authority".

"Journalists are not entitled to promise complete confidentiality - no-one in America is," he said.

The leak of Ms Plame's name was not made to Cooper or Miller, but they came to the attention of the prosecutor because of their inquiries.

The reporters refused to co-operate with the investigation, claiming they should not have to reveal their sources because of press freedoms guaranteed in the US Constitution.

That defence was over-ruled by a court in Washington.

The case has sparked concern in the US media about press freedoms and prompted calls for federal shield laws.

A number of states have legislation to protect reporters from having to identify their confidential sources.

Story from BBC NEWS:


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