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Summary of the Argument


The right of protection of sources is essential to free expression. Disclosures of information by confidential sources play a significant role in the media's ability to gather information and the public to receive that information. The most substantial consequence of forcing journalists to disclose their sources is the effect it will have on their ability to obtain information. Some sources will refuse to talk to them for fear of being revealed. It may also may put the journalist in danger.

The legal recognition of the need for journalists to have their sources of information protected from disclosure, is now well accepted in international law, as well as firmly established in national laws and cases in over 100 countries.

This right has been recognised by major international courts including the European Court of human rights and the UN-Sponsored International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone, as well as by most of the human rights bodies of major inter-governmental organisations including the UN Human Rights Commission, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for American States, the African Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

It has also been recognised in national law in over 100 countries, though constitutional provisions, legal provisions and case law. The cases and national laws establish that information about confidential sources is legally protected under the right to freedom of expression and can only be limited consistently with internationally recognized limits on freedom of expression.

Thus, any disclosure of source information must be done under the strictest scrutiny by a court, which fully takes into account the importance of freedom of expression against an established societal interest as set out in international law. At a minimum, any disclosure must be authorized by a court in a full hearing of all related parties. It must find that the information to be disclosed relates to a serious crime, that the information is essential for the protection of an important societal interest, that there is no other means to access to information, and that the effects on the free flow of information, including on future disclosures are fully considered.