SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The San Francisco Chronicle told a federal appeals court that public interest demands the recognition of a journalist’s right to protect confidential sources.

In papers filed with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, the newspaper challenged a federal judge’s order to imprison two Chronicle reporters who refused to testify about who leaked them secret grand jury testimony from Barry Bonds and other athletes.

“Confidentiality is essential for the reporters to sustain the relationships they need with sources and to obtain sensitive information from them,” Jonathan Donnellan, a lawyer for the newspaper and reporters, said in the court filing. “Without it, the press cannot effectively serve the public by keeping it informed.”

In August, a federal judge found reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada in contempt of court for refusing to reveal how they obtained transcripts from a grand jury that investigated whether the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative supplied steroids to professional athletes.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White sentenced the reporters to up to 18 months in prison or until they agreed to testify. They remain free while their case is being considered by the San Francisco-based appeals court. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds’ trainer, served a sentence in the BALCO case last year and is back in prison for refusing to testify against Bonds. The Giants outfielder also is being investigated by a separate grand jury for possible perjury in his denial that he knowingly used steroids.

Information from: San Francisco Chronicle,

AP-ES-12-02-06 1659EST

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