ICE blogs

April 29, 2011

Concern over intimidation of top journalist and professor

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 8:09 am

A group of prominent US academics and journalists have expressed concern about what they claim is ‘a retaliatory campaign’ by law enforcement authorities and Northwestern University, Chicago, against long-time investigative journalist and Professor David Protess.

Professor Protess has established a national reputation at Northwestern University by working with journalism students on investigations that have resulted in the release of a dozen innocent men from death row or long prison terms. His work and writings have inspired many to become investigative journalists and to the creation of innocence projects in their own communities.

The controversy began two years ago when the Cook County prosecutor began an unprecedented effort to obtain the notes, grades and emails of Professor Protess’s students, who worked on the case of a man who appears to have been unjustly convicted.

Now Professor Protess’s methods and honesty have been questioned not only by prosecutors, but by his employer, Northwestern University, and its attorneys. Earlier this month, in a highly unusual proceeding the University presented its case against Professor Protess to a closed session of the journalism faculty. Professor Protess was barred from the meeting, denying him an opportunity to confront the accusations. Then the university issued a press release making public the serious allegations against him, quickly adding that it would not comment any further.

Tarnished and isolated, Protess has been the subject of news reports and leaks that further damaged his reputation. In response, he has asked for an independent investigation into the allegations against him as well as the conduct of all those involved.

The academics and journalists call on colleagues, especially those covering the news media, to join in investigating what is happening at Northwestern University. They also ask university officials to present themselves in a public session to explain their actions, and to answer questions on why they have endangered one of the premier investigative reporting projects in the country.

- Contact: Brant Houston,; David Cay Johnston,; Lowell Bergman,; Mark Feldstein,

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