The Law of Unauthorised Disclosures
Chapter 3: Protection as a journalistic source
The making of unauthorised disclosures to journalists provides an alternative to making whistleblowing disclosures using official channels. Provided that the individual can remain anonymous from their organisation, they can continue to leak information and potentially avoid any workplace reprisals. The press perform a vital function in democratic society and can provide whistleblowers with a voice which may have gone unheard if they had chosen to use an official route. Journalists need sources and those sources need protection. Where journalists are compelled to reveal a source, their role as watchdog is undermined. Individuals are deterred from coming forward, resulting in a lasting ‘chilling effect’. The threat of prosecution to both journalists and their sources is a problem shared across the globe. Conversely, whilst anonymity can offer protection to the source, it presents potential challenges for the recipient audience. The information concerned may consist of ‘a mixture of substance and disinformation’. The recipient audience of have little way of checking the accuracy of the information, placing significant importance on the role of journalists to check information before publication and to provide explanations as to the importance of the disclosures in question. Furthermore, it has also been suggested that members of the public will ‘confuse self-protective instincts with cowardice and deceitfulness’. The traditional relationship between journalist and source is changing. Wikileaks and other online disclosure platforms now act as a conduit, working in collaboration with several media outlets across the globe.
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