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Reporters Condemn Scribe’s Jailing

August 23, 2001

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ The International Federation of Journalists condemned the jailing of an American writer for refusing to hand over her research into a 1997 Texas society murder.

The organization, the umbrella group for journalist unions around the world, said Thursday that the jailing of Vanessa Leggett in Texas symbolizes a growing problem for journalists worldwide who are under pressure to hand over notes, film and other materials to authorities.

``There are too many cases of journalists being ordered to hand over material to the authorities,″ Aidan White, the federation’s general secretary, said in a statement.

``Whenever this happens it compromises our independence and undermines the ethical responsibility of reporters.″

Leggett, 33, was found in contempt of court July 20 and jailed for refusing to turn over notes to a grand jury investigating the murder of 46-year-old Doris Angleton, wife of millionaire former bookie Robert Angleton.

A federal appeals court last week refused to free Leggett, who is preparing a book on the case.

Federal prosecutors say Leggett is not a journalist and therefore her work is not protected by the First Amendment. Leggett has not published a book or news articles. She could be held for up to 18 months.

``The authorities play a dangerous game when they start to pick and choose which writers and journalists are entitled to the protection of the Constitution,″ the journalists’ federation statement said.

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