What Should the "Journalist's Privilege" Be?

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Eugene Volokh has some ideas about a murky but important and pressing legal issue, and adds: "In any event, the rules should be the same for old media and new, professional and amateur. Any journalist's privilege should extend to every journalist."

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  1. I am tired of journalistic privilege trumping all other laws. This is particularly true in the recent case of leaking secret Balco grand jury testimony to the press.

  2. There’s something a bit perverse about the idea of a “Journalist’s Privilege”.

    If someone tells me something in confidence, asking me to keep it a secret, I can be forced to reveal who told me and exactly what I was told.

    On the other hand, if he tells me something intending for me to relay it to 100,000 subscribers, then the conversation should be protected?

  3. If the journalists who wrote the BALCO story directly received their information about the grand jury proceedings from any government official, then the journalists should be criminally prosecuted. They aided and abeted a crime, and, more appalling to me, they acted as an instrument of unconstitutional and immoral state power.

  4. Skip, what would you suggest be done to the government officials who provided the information (as per your hypothetical)?

    cheers,
    Shirley Knott

  5. Shirley–

    I would strip them of their citizenship and expel them from the country.

  6. Can reporters go to jail for not revealing sources? My memory suggests that contempt charges and 6 months has been awarded for a few. If this is true then there is no privelege, other than the one claimed by reporters and protected by their willingness to go to jail. Any citizen can do that.

    If the law isn’t enforced then there might be other reasons, such as the public not really minding leaks that inform the public. Or, as in this case the revelation that theirs steroid use in baseball. Who’d of thunk it?

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