Media body pushes for law to protect sources

THE Freedom of Expression Institute wants legislation to protect the confidentiality of journalists' sources.

THE Freedom of Expression Institute wants legislation to protect the confidentiality of journalists' sources.

FXI has lodged a request with the South African Law Reform Commission to investigate the amendment to Section 205 of the Criminal Procedures Act.

Alternatively, it is calling for a shield law to be introduced.

This follows the issuing of subpoenas calling on two e.tv staffers, Ben Said and Mpho Lakaje, to divulge their sources and confidential information.

The subpoenas have been put aside since the police and the television station have agreed on mediation.

FXI acting executive director Melissa Moore said: "At the core of this conflict lies the question whether the public interest in compelling the journalist to reveal his or her source or confidential information clearly outweighs the public interest in the free flow of information."

The South African National Editor's Forum believes journalists should be treated in accordance with the principles outlined in the Record of Understanding reached between the ministers of justice and safety and security and the Director of Public Prosecutions and Sanef in 1999.

The agreement states "that the press and the media in a democratic society have a right and a duty, in the public interest, to collect and disseminate newsworthy information and in order to exercise this right and duty it is necessary, under appropriate circumstances that their sources and information should be protected".

The FXI says the legislation should state in clear and precise terms the conditions under which compelled disclosure of confidential information is allowed.

X