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However, if they do start to reveal sources, then future informants are going to be hesitant to alert the media when corruption takes place (Dreiling, 2004).
News organizations such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Dow Jones and Company, Gannett Company, Bloomberg and Fox News are asking courts to recognize a reporter's privilege. Without such privilege, news organizations worry that subpoenas will be used to harass journalists and intimidate government workers (Dreiling, 2004)."
Since the events of 9-11 courts have gotten less lenient about journalists claiming that the first amendment protects them from revealing sources. Even in cases that do not involve terrorism journalists are being incarcerated for refusing to cooperate with the demand to know who their sources were. Last October a New York Times reporters and a Time magazine reporters were both jailed for their refusal to tell a federal grand jury who tipped them off to the fact that the wife of a former U.S. ambassador was a covert CIA
Operative on weapons of mass destruction.
The two journalists were not only jailed for their refusal to tell who their source was they were also each fined $1,000 a day until they were willing to tell (Dreiling, 2004).
That order was held until an appeal can be heard.
Part of the problem involves the legality of a government official leaking information to the press that should have fallen under their confidentiality agreement. The leaks are at times criminal offenses on the part of the official who provided the information and the demand to have the journalist reveal that name is so that person can be charged. If the journalist doesn't reveal the source there is no way of knowing it if was in fact a government official or other person who had a confidentiality agreement. It is ironic that journalists are jailed for not helping someone jail an official who helps bring corruption to public light.
Many experts believe that the issue of a reporter's privilege is quickly headed back to the Supreme Court as more cases arise that are on a federal level.
Within that controversy will most likely include whether journalists can seek out information with the pre-promised protection of confidentiality to the informant. In the case against the Seminole in which civil laws suits were filed following stories about a tribal investigation that the paper conducted one exhibit introduced to the trial was a memo sent by the reporter to the person he needed the information from.
A understand the position this letter puts you in, but I've only the interest of the tribe at heart," Goldstein's letter reads, in part. "I'm aware that you may be in possession of certain documents that could help our pursuit of the truth...if copies of those documents were to arrive in an envelope that has no return address on it, the truth will get out and there will be no trace.. (Flowers, 2000)."
FEDERAL SHIELD TIME
The time has come to pass a federal shield law (Pass, 2006). Some of the most significant corruption has been uncovered at the federal level over the years and the journalists who break those stories deserve to be protected in the same way that state and local level journalist are protected. When Nixon was exposed it was because a journalist was given information that lead to that story being revealed. When Clinton was exposed it was because someone provided a lead to a journalist who took it from there and uncovered the truth.
If journalists are not protected from revealing their sources at all levels of government or legal areas they will no longer be able to obtain the tips that allow them to uncover wrongdoings.
Dreiling, Geri L (2004) First Amendment protects journalists and that the majority... National Catholic Reporter.
____(2006) EDITORIAL: Pass Federal Shield Law From: Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)
Flowers, Charles (2000) Newspaper Lawsuit Still on the Griddle
Kellman, Laurie (2005) Senate considers protecting reporters who won't reveal
Peele, Thomas (2006)…[continue]
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