Thursday 30 March 2017

Commission examines law to allow reporters protect sources

The Law Reform Commission is examining whether new legislation should be introduced to allow journalists to refuse to disclose their sources in certain circumstances when they are asked to do so in court. Stock photo: Depositphotos
The Law Reform Commission is examining whether new legislation should be introduced to allow journalists to refuse to disclose their sources in certain circumstances when they are asked to do so in court. Stock photo: Depositphotos
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Law Reform Commission is examining whether new legislation should be introduced to allow journalists to refuse to disclose their sources in certain circumstances when they are asked to do so in court.

At present, the refusal to do so can constitute a contempt of court and reporters can be jailed.

This happened in 1974 during the trial of Seán MacStiofáin for membership of the IRA. RTÉ political correspondent Kevin O'Kelly was jailed for three months for refusing to identify the person who had given him a taped interview claiming to be chief of staff of the IRA.

The Court of Criminal Appeal later held that journalists did not enjoy a constitutional immunity from disclosing information received in confidence.

However, it found the three-month sentence unjustified and substituted a fine instead.

The issue had previously divided the commission, with a minority of members in 1994 recommending legislation be introduced to protect journalists. It is now seeking submissions on the issue as part of a fresh examination of the country's contempt laws.

Irish Independent

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