When journalists are subpoenaed – RAPPLER – Philippine News | Multimedia | Citizen Journalism | Social Media.
by Chay F. HOFILEÑA, RAPPLER.com
January 31, 2012
Are journalists who are subpoenaed by courts obliged to comply with them? What legitimate reasons are there for not honoring these court orders?
Subpoenas are orders issued by courts to compel persons to appear before them and provide testimony or documents that can aid in the investigation or the resolution of a particular case. Because they are court orders, failure to comply with them may carry penalties, including imprisonment.
Journalists who are subpoenaed, however, often question the reasons behind such an order. If they are called to provide testimony that will reveal their sources or what they know about a particular case or person, chances are, they will refuse on the basis of freedom of the press.
Why so? Because the confidentiality that a journalist promises his or her source is no different from the confidentiality that a priest promises during confession. Also, because a journalist relies on this bedrock relationship of trust with sources – without it, the flow of information will be more restricted and the news-gathering rights of the media will be adversely curtailed.
Compliance with a subpoena could set precedents and influence jurisprudence and even policies, too, that could result in more restrictive press laws.
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