Saturday, May 26, 2007

Confidentiality and the Courts

This is a tricky situation. Reuters was ordered (Friday, 25 May 2007)) to reveal its confidential source for a business case, by a Singapore court of law. According to Reuters,
"It is Reuters policy to protect the confidentiality of our sources," Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger said.
According to the Singapore law, it was said that:
Singapore law does not recognise the right of journalists to protect the identity of their sources, which is enshrined in the laws of many countries protecting freedom of expression, as well as recognised by the European Court of Human Rights.
It looks like a double-bind. If Reuters were to stick to its confidentiality clause, the reporter will have to be jailed for refusing to obey the court's directive. If Reuters were to allow the reporter to reveal the sources, it will mean loss of credibility for the news agency. Either way, Reuters is stuck. The only way out, is for the sources themselves to release Reuters from the confidentiality clause agreement. My feelings are mixed. It may work this time in terms of getting the information out. However, there will be a risk that in future, information sources will not be willing at all to talk to anybody, in Singapore! Who will then be willing to share information? Will this incident encourage individuals and corporations to be willing to share pertinent information? What will happen to people, for whatever reasons, needs to remain anonymous and yet the information needs to be disseminated safely? Will it lead to people who are already normally clammed up about sharing information, becomes even more clammed up? What if there is a legitimate reason to remain anonymous, but the court orders the anonymous sources to be disclosed? How can we resolve this ethical dilemma?

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