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Report No. 93

4.14. Summary of the position as to journalists in England (Common Law).-

By way of a broad summary of the position in England at common law,1 it may be stated that while a journalist does not possess a legal right, as such, to refuse to disclose his source of information, this does not mean that the English courts are entirely unsympathetic to a request by a journalist for being permitted not to disclose the source. In the first place, in an action for libel, at the pre-trial stage, disclosure of the source is not generally ordered in proceedings for discovery.2

In the second place, in regard to the summoning of a journalist to give oral evidence and compelling him to answer questions that would involve the disclosure of his source of information, English judges usually do not insist on compelling him to do so, unless they regard the answer to the particular question as material. Thirdly, during recent times, judicial suggestions for reform of the law has also started pouring in, one example being the suggestion made by Lord Justice Soarman (as he then was) in a case reported in 1975.3

1. For statutory modification of the Common Law rule, see para. 4.15, infra.

2. Order 82, rule 6, R.S.C. (English).

3. Senior v. Holdsworth, (1975) 2 All ER 1009.

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