Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Secrecy of Jail - That is the Question!

According to the article “Protecting a Free Press” published by the Savannah Morning News, “Confidential sources can be the lifeblood of news articles.” Historic journalism like the abuse at Abu Ghraib may not have been written if reporters had to reveal where they obtained their information.

The promise a journalist makes of secrecy to a source could sometimes mean choosing between keeping their word or going to jail. According to the article such a decision “inhibits the free flow of information that citizens need to make sound decisions in a free society.”

It is because of such instances that many individual states have shield laws which provide varying degrees of protection. This freedom of the press varies from state to state even though it should be addressed at the national level.

According to the article:

Some sources who talk to reporters about wrongdoing in the public or private sectors fear retribution. A federal shield laws keeps the lines of communication open, keeps the public informed and keeps reporters from getting locked up for doing their jobs.

Shield laws are an incredible important and powerful tool that journalist need to posses if they are to be able to write on issues that are high profile. Many sources wouldn’t feel safe releasing information they know due to the fact that it could resulted in them loose their jobs or even worse being physically harmed. Just as the identity of jury members is often withheld for safety reasons, journalist should be able to withhold the identity of a source for safety reasons.

This creates a fine line that journalist have to walk in that by not releasing the source of their information they face the risk of not being believed. It could also create skepticism among readers of whether a reporter is even reporting the truth or just making up stories and attributing them to unnamed sources.

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