January 18, 2017

US - RSF renews call for Obama to pardon whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling

One day after President Obama commuted the sentence of whistleblower Chelsea Manning and pardoned General James Cartwright for lying to the F.B.I. about discussing Iran's nuclear program with journalists, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) renews its call for a pardon for whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for merely being in contact with New York Times journalist James Risen.

RSF has been deeply concerned by the precedent set in Jeffrey’s conviction and has launched a petition for his pardon, which has now gathered close to 110,000 signatures on Jeffrey Sterling, a former C.I.A. officer, was convicted under the Espionage Act on January 26, 2015 for merely communicating with New York Times journalist James Risen. He’s now serving a 3.5-year prison sentence in a federal correctional facility in Colorado.

During Jeffrey’s trial, the Department of Justice was unable to present any direct evidence proving that he divulged classified information to Risen. They relied on circumstantial evidence -- emails and telephone conversations -- to try to make a case to a jury who would likely favor his conviction.

Because Jeffrey utilized proper channels and informed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence of his concern for the safety of the American people, he is considered a whistleblower.

"We welcome the commutation of Manning's sentence and urge President Obama to pardon Jeffrey along with the other prisoners' sentences he plans to commute tomorrow before he leaves office," says Delphine Halgand, RSF's North America Director. "He should never have gone to prison for simply being in contact with a journalist and deserves to be home with his wife Holly."

President Obama's war on whistleblowers is part of an overall alarming trend of curtailing press freedom in the United States. Since 2013, the U.S. ranking on RSF’s World Press Freedom Index has fallen by 14 points. It is now ranked 41 out of 180 countries based on data collected from 2015.