Protecting Reporters Who Protect Sources

Dalglish, Lucy
June 2005
Nieman Reports;Summer2005, Vol. 59 Issue 2, p30
This article emphasizes the importance of protecting reporters who protect sources. It explains why in the past, failure among journalists to agree upon a federal shield law strategy has doomed any effort to create a statutory privilege. It is ironic that at the same time federal judges in the U.S. have been less willing to recognize a privilege for American journalists, the number of countries providing shield laws for reporters is increasing. In Sweden, for example, it is illegal for a journalist to identify a confidential source. These countries have recognized the basic truths about confidential sources: First, providing reporters with a privilege from compelled testimony ensures the independence of the media--citizens might better trust information if they know the reporters are not operating merely as an agent for the government. And second, the public will ultimately receive more and better information that we all need to make decisions in a democracy if whistleblowers are protected. In the meantime, news organizations are fighting for their employees in the courts. Unlike the early 197Os when the Reporters Committee was formed because editors and publishers were not stepping forward to protect their reporters, employers are working hard on these issues. They understand that you cannot operate a successful business if your employees are thrown in jail merely for doing their jobs.


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