Confidentiality Of Sources Essay

1570 words - 7 pages

Confidentiality of Sources
Professionals like attorneys, doctors, counselors, and church leaders have ethical duties and responsibilities to keep the confidentiality of information. Protecting communications is important for people seeking for legal and spiritual advice in situations that involve any type of illegal activities. If not offered, individuals might reject to cooperate in obtaining help, for instance. Journalism is not the exception; on the contrary, confidentiality is a sensitive and crucial part of the practice. That a journalist could offer confidentiality to a source puts him or her in a different level that allows accessing to information otherwise impossible to obtain. ...view middle of the document...

The other article was written in 1971 pertaining on drug use in Frankfort, Kentucky. For this second article, Branzburg spoke with marijuana users and obtained their cooperation for his work, under the condition of remain unidentified. When published, these articles caught the attention of law enforcement personnel. Branzburg was called to testify before a grand jury concerning his knowledge of drug activities described in the articles, and to name his sources. The reporter refused to reveal the identity and other details about his collaborators, under the statement of Freedom of the Press Clauses of the First Amendment protecting this confidentiality. Kentucky judges heard the cases; they disagreed and held that Branzburg had to identify his sources. Branzburg appealed the decision.
What did the court decide in Branzburg v. Hayes regarding a journalist's right to withhold confidential sources?
The decision is this case was five to four against the possibility of confidentiality privilege. The First Amendment denied the news reporter a privilege to keep their sources confidential from the government. Reporters are subject to the same civic duties as are other citizens, and they must share information about criminal activities with the grand jury investigations. Writing for a majority of the Court, Justice Byron White held that the First Amendment does not provide members of the press with the right to withhold from a grand jury the names of confidential sources. Moreover, the Court stated that there was a lack of statistical evidence providing that such a deterrent effect existed (United States Courts, n.a.).

How have lower courts interpreted the Branzburg v. Hayes decision based on whether the cases involved civil, criminal, or grand jury proceedings?
In the aftermath of this case, the Supreme Court’s decision created that many states enacted legislation to protect journalists and reporters from being punished for refusing to disclose their sources. This legislation is commonly known as “shield laws.” The United States Courts of Appeals have interpreted the holding in Branzburg v. Hayes case in a different way. The Sixth Circuit, for instance had interpreted the decision in a strict manner, sustaining that the First Amendment does not provide the reporters and journalists with any right to withhold the identities of their sources. On the other hand, the Fifth Circuit exercised a balancing test based on the three criteria that differentiates between criminal and civil cases. This Circuit does not provide protection to confidential sources in criminal cases (United States Courts, n.a.).
Summarize the approach journalists should take pertaining to promising confidentiality to sources.
Newspaper attorney, David Utevsky shared some suggestions to writers, journalists, and reporters at a seminar in Seattle, regarding the approach these media professionals should take pertaining to promising confidentiality...

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