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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Court rules Illinois reporter cannot be compelled to reveal the identity of an anonymous source.

The National Press Club welcomed an appellate court's decision that an Illinois reporter cannot be compelled to reveal the identity of an anonymous source.

The Third District Appellate Court on Monday overturned a Will County circuit court's ruling that Patch.com editor Joseph Hosey must reveal who had provided him with police reports that had informed a story he wrote about two January 2013 murders in Joliet, Ill.  When Hosey refused to comply with the lower court order, the judge found him in criminal contempt and fined him thousands of dollars, even though Illinois has a qualified shield law.

The appellate court found there was not adequate justification to force the journalist to reveal his source. The appellate court recognized that the source's name was not relevant to the murder case, and so the judge said Hosey could not legally be compelled to disclose the person's identity.

The National Press Club honored Hosey in July with a John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award for Hosey's commitment to standing up for First Amendment freedoms and for safeguarding the trust that exists between reporters and their confidential sources. A number of news organizations, including the National Press Club, jointly filed a friend of the court brief in Hosey's case, arguing that compelling Hosey to testify could broadly harm press freedoms.

"We at the National Press Club are pleased that a reporter whose cause we championed has been vindicated for his courage," said NPC President Myron Belkind. "However, this case still illustrates why it is important for Washington to enact a strong federal shield law that would protect reporters and their sources and bolster the public's right to be informed while, at the same time, protecting criminal justice and national security."

In a separate case that the club's Freedom of the Press Committee has been monitoring closely, Justice Department officials told reporters Dec. 12 they would not force New York Times reporter James Risen to testify in January about whether former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling was a source for Risen's 2006 book, "State of War." Risen, too, was a recipient of an NPC press freedom award (in 2012). The Justice Department has said it may question Risen about other matters related to his reporting.

"The Risen and Hosey cases had already begun to chill reporter-source relationships," Belkind said. "Had the these two judges not ruled the way they did, the damage would have been worse."

The National Press Club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. Founded in 1908, it is located in Washington, D.C. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the National Press Club speaks out on behalf of press freedom and transparency worldwide.

SOURCE National Press Club


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