Shield Law

Journalists sometimes get information from sources who do not want to be identified in news stories because they fear retribution or embarrassment. Often, this information helps journalists uncover illegal or unethical behavior by people in powerful institutions. Many journalists adhere to a long-standing professional tradition of protecting confidential sources’ identities, so that these and future sources will trust reporters with sensitive information. However, if the source’s information indicates the source may have information relevant to a crime or helpful to a civil litigant, the journalist may receive a legal order to reveal the source’s identity. Such situations create conflicts between journalists’ professional standards and their duties as citizens to obey valid legal orders or risk consequences such as large monetary fines or imprisonment.

Because journalists often ...

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