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The Importance of the Right of Protection of Sources

The media plays a crucial role in society acting as a watchdog. To fulfil this role, the media needs confidential sources of information. These sources often reveal wrongdoing, mismanagement and dangers to the public. From the Watergate scandal in the US to the sinking of the Russian AS-28 mini-submarine, many important stories have been revealed only because of insiders made unauthorized disclosures to journalists. These disclosures are often the only means for journalists to receive information where legal regimes such as freedom of information laws are not in place or are insufficient. In return, the sources often demand that their identities be kept secret for fear of repercussions.
Forcing journalists to disclose their sources and other confidential information that they receive in the course of conducting their jobs will seriously affect their ability to obtain information and thus the public's ability to receive information of public interest. Sources will refuse to provide the information for fear of being harmed in their jobs or personal lives. Other sources will refrain from providing information as the journalists will be viewed not as an independent gatherer of information into that of an arm of government gathering evidence that will be used against them.

In the most serious circumstances, a lack of source protection can result in the physical endangerment of the journalist. Many journalists work in areas of extreme danger such as war zones or investigation and reporting on dangerous crime. If a journalist is considered an informant or a spy for the authorities or a future witness in a trial, this may result in their being targeted.