Report No. 93
6.2. The First Amendment and the judgment in Branzburg.-
Although it was generally agreed that the common law afforded no privilege to journalists, the question arose whether the Constitution of the United States did so. The First Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press".
In 1972, the United States Supreme Court reviewed three cases in which grand juries, investigating the activities and ideas of certain political and social groups; had attempted to compel journalists to disclose confidential information and the identities of their informants. The cases, which were heard together, were (i) Branzburg v. Haves, (ii) In re Pappas and (iii) United States v. Caldwell (the cases being collectively known as the Branzburg case).1 The Supreme Court held, by a majority, that the First Amendment afforded no protection to journalists in these circumstances.2-3
1. Branzburg v. Haves, J-FSTI 33 L Ed 2d 628.
2. Generally, see Alfred Hill, Testimonial Privilege and Fair Trial, (Oct. 1980) 80 Col. L. Rev. 1170-1176.
3. As to libel actions, see para. 6.13, infra.