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Report No. 93

9.3. Matter to be protected.-

The third question relates to the matter to be protected. We have found this to be a difficult issue. We note that section 15(2) of the Press Council Act1 confers protection only against disclosure of "the source of any news or information" published by a newspaper or received or reported by a news agency, editor or journalist. This would not cover unpublished information, other than the source. In England, section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1931, gives immunity to a person "for refusing to disclose the source of information contained in publication for which he is responsible, unless it be established to the satisfaction of the court that disclosure is necessary in the interest of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime".

This is also somewhat narrowly drawn. We appreciate that in principle, there is something to be said for conferring protection on such unpublished information. The journalist, for example, may consider it necessary to obtain background information which (though not itself intended for publication) may be required for verifying the accuracy of the information that is proposed to be published. Nevertheless, one cannot overlook the consideration that a protection for such unpublished information may occasionally create unforeseen anomalies. We would, therefore, prefer to confine the protection to the source only.

1. Para. 3.6, supra.

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