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This thesis sought to examine the law on contempt of court as it pertained to journalists’ refusal to give evidence that would reveal the identity of their confidential sources of information. It argued that current law in this jurisdiction does not go far enough to protect journalists’ sources and, consequently, press freedom. It contended that despite the introduction of a statutory provision in the UK to provide qualified immunity from contempt charges for journalists who refused to reveal their sources, the law is not sufficiently clear to allow journalists to grant confidentiality without fear of prosecution. This thesis found that the law governing contempt of court and revelation of sources in the UK is stacked in favour of quantifiable interests such as the threat to businesses posed by leaked information rather than safeguarding press freedom.
This thesis examined the law on journalists’ sources in the US and Sweden, highlighting the greater weight given to protecting anonymous sources in these jurisdictions. It then argued for the introduction of restrictions on the use of anonymous sources and unattributed information based on recent libel actions taken following inaccurate and baseless newspaper allegations. It found a correlation between the use of unattributed information and libellous material, citing the recent McCann abduction case as an example. It also found a link between commercial pressure and the trend towards using anonymous sources.
Fahy, Angel: Confidential Sources and Contempt of Court: An argument for change. Dublin, DIT, July 2009.