Monday, March 10, 2008

Opposing view: No 'freedom to keep secrets' - Opinion -

Glenn Reynolds (of Instapundit fame) writes:

The Constitution merely protects the freedom of speech and publication — not the freedom to keep secrets, which is what journalists are asking for when they seek special privileges of non-disclosure. Increasingly, journalists seem to be focusing on what not to tell us. In doing so, they're usually pursuing their own interests, not the First Amendment's or their readers'.

The other problem with journalist "shield" laws is that journalism isn't a profession; it's an activity, one now engaged in by many. With the proliferation of blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos and the like, anyone can be a journalist. But if anyone could assert a journalistic privilege not to disclose sources, the work of the courts would be far tougher.

Efforts to limit the privilege to "professional" journalists, on the other hand, quickly transform into a sort of guild or licensing system for the press — ironically, something that the First Amendment clearly prohibits.

I agree with all that and add that the right to a fair trial trumps any "shield" law.  If sources want to stay anonymous, they should contact the press anonymously.  That means the responsible press will have to rely more on named sources, which is a good thing for everyone.  Unnamed sources belong in the gossip columns and rumor sites.

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