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In Boston, journalist battles to keep sources confidential

(CPJ/IFEX) - April 9, 2012 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Joel Simon/CPJ Executive Director

In December 2002, the U.N. Tribunal charged with prosecuting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia ruled that Washington Post reporter Jonathan Randal could not be compelled to provide testimony in the case of a Bosnian Serb official accused of carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing. "If war correspondents were to be perceived as potential witnesses for the Prosecution," the Tribunal noted, they "may shift from being observers of those committing human rights violations to being their targets." As a result of that ruling, war correspondents enjoy some immunity against compelled testimony at the international level. But this is not necessarily the case in the United States.

A case playing out in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston highlights the lack of protection for conflict reporters under U.S. domestic law. Ed Moloney, an award-winning Irish journalist who has covered the conflict in Northern Ireland since 1979, and researcher Anthony McIntyre are fighting to keep their confidential sources secret. Moloney, a permanent resident of the United States, directed "The Belfast Project," an oral history project documenting "The Troubles" that was deposited at Boston College in an archive that would be sealed, according to the terms of the project, until the participants granted permission or died. Among the many interviews in the project are ones from the late 1990s with Brendan Hughes, who subsequently died, and Dolours Price, who is very much alive. Both are former members of the Irish Republican Army. Non-confidential parts of these interviews were used in a book by Moloney and a subsequent high-profile documentary.

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