IN OTHER WORDS: Bad company

One of the many moral hazards of throwing reporters in jail is the company you keep. In recent days, the US and China both reached shameful milestones. In the US, the New York Times reporter Judith Miller has been jailed for more than 75 days. Another employee of The Times, Zhao Yan, marked a full year in prison in China.

Miller was jailed for declining to comply with a court order to testify in an investigation into the disclosure of an undercover CIA agent’s identity. No one, except the Chinese authorities, knows precisely why Zhao was arrested on Sept. 17, 2004, but it apparently was retaliation for The Times reporting in advance that the Chinese leader Jiang Zemin would retire. Zhao had nothing to do with that article, but the government has since charged him with leaking state secrets, a capital crime. Zhao’s imprisonment is typical of China’s tight control of the press. In the US, Miller’s imprisonment stands out for its rarity, and harshness. No other newspaper reporter has ever been jailed this long for standing on her constitutional rights.

The very fact that this newspaper has to fight the same battle on behalf of an American employee that it is fighting for a citizen of a totalitarian society is symbolic of how outrageous Miller’s imprisonment is.