Trylon Communications  - July 2005

Protect the Source

The recent revelation about the Watergate source “Deep Throat,” along with the jail sentence for Judith Miller and Time Inc.’s decision to deliver confidential information to a grand jury has renewed interest in the right of the press to withhold the identities of confidential informants.

In fact, some media groups are openly calling for federal legislation that would protect the press from prosecution for withholding this information – a type of federal shield law. There are 31 states that have some type of shield law in place now.

The proposed "Free Flow of Information Act" would allow testimony to be released from a journalist only after non-media sources have been exhausted - and only if the testimony is needed to solve a crime or resolve a civil case. It also extends further protections to the identities of confidential sources.

This legislation has bipartisan sponsors in both the House and the Senate. It is pending in Congress, but needs to be passed before the next judge decides to incarcerate a journalist for protecting his or her sources.

Journalists believe that without this type of protection, their ability to obtain sensitive information will be severely compromised. This can lead to the elimination of news-breaking stories and limit the ability of the public to be accurately informed about issues.

Whistleblowers have long been a prime source for behind-the-scenes stories that reveal corruption or cover-ups in both corporate and governmental entities. The loss of these “in the know” sources will severely inhibit the reporting of the truth to the public.

For more information, here are two articles: