Posted by Lizzie Pine
Photo by Jeremy Keith
Lawyers and their clients, doctors and patients, priests and sinners – all are confidentiality relationships protected by law.
But journalists and their sources? Not quite.
While some states (not Iowa) have Shield Laws, there is no federal law to allow journalists to not reveal their sources when questioned. However, a proposition is in motion.
The Free Flow of Information Act, if enacted, would let journalists keep information confidential. Anonymous informers would be free to talk to journalists without fear of being prosecuted. Reporters would have more sources and would be able to dig deeper into stories is people weren’t afraid of the consequences of disclosing information.
The only way courts could have access to the private details would be if the federal government proved to judges that the need for information was greater than the need for confidentiality.
Many journalists and press organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, want this bill passed.
This law has other advantages: It could help prosecute the people behind WikiLeaks.
Right now, journalists must give courts any information they have, if needed, or pay fines or spend time in jail. The courts use this information to prosecute people for wrongdoing, possibly making the nation safer.
In return, people don’t trust journalists as much if there is the threat of being prosecuted for what they say.
Should journalists be allowed to keep sources and information confidential by law? Or should they have to give up their sources at the risk of people not entrusting them with new information?