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Protection Against Judicially Compelled Disclosure of the Identity of News Gatherers' Confidential Sources in Common Law Jurisdictions

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In many common law liberal democracies today, news gatherers are resisting efforts to use the powers of the courts to compel them to identify their confidential sources. Often the struggles are epic. Often the public interest in effective news gathering fuelling the vitality of a modern liberal democracy is insufficiently recognised. The article uses recent cases to spotlight the shortfalls in the approach and legacy of the common law in dealing with news gatherer/confidential source relationships. Post Human Rights Act English decisions, especially that of Tugendhat J in Ackroyd, combining European style commitment to the public interest in vigorous newsgathering with common law style analysis of evidence, point the way to a more effective approach. US and Hong Kong cases remind news gatherers of their public interest responsibilities.

Keywords: Ackroyd; journalist; ‘Ashworth Hospital Authority’; ‘In re Grand Jury Subpoena’; ‘confidential source’; ‘contempt of court’; ‘search warrant’

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: *Department of Law, University of Hong Kong

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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