ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Newsgatherers’ Privilege to Source Protection

Need for Legal Recognition in India

Despite the centrality of an autonomous press, the constituent aspect of source protection privilege has been neglected by courts and legislatures in India. Thus, newsgatherers’ interaction with sources is surrounded by legal ambiguity. To guard the vehicle of a free press, the reporter’s privilege should be recognised as a part of the right to freedom of speech and expression.

Indian courts are trapped in a dichotomy in their free speech jurisprudence. While the Supreme Court and high courts have established the centrality of an autonomous press within the liberal democratic paradigm, there has been reluctance—even an abyss-like silence—on a constituent aspect that is pivotal to the functioning of the press—source protection privilege. Also known as reporter’s privilege and source confidentiality, source protection privilege shields newsgatherers from being compelled to reveal the sources who have come forward with information on the condition of anonymity.

My argument in this article is twofold. First, it is time for courts in India to clarify the status of source confidentiality, whether ­approached from the confidential speech rights of the source or as a component of the right to free speech enjoyed by the fourth estate. The current state of ad hocism and obscurity is the result of a dichotomous approach, wherein free speech is elevated without protecting the vehicle of the press. Moreover, a review of case law reveals repeated instances of judicial ­silence and evasion even when the issue of source protection has arisen in cases.

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Updated On : 26th Aug, 2021
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