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Freedom of Media - Essay Example

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Freedom of Media

And the Act gives people a clear legal statement of their basic rights and fundamental freedoms. The key principle of the Act is that wherever possible there should be compatibility with the Convention rights.
SECTION 10 CONTEMPT OF COURT ACT 1981: The section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 has given some formal recognition to the media's watchdog role, in relation to the protection of journalists sources. It says:
"No court may require a person to disclose, nor is a person guilty of contempt of court for refusing to disclose the source of information contained in the publication for which he is responsible; unless it be established to the satisfaction of the court that disclosure is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime".
This section covers any speech, writing, broadcast or other communication made or addressed to the public. Although journalists take advantage of this section mostly, it is not confined to journalists only. It offers protection for the disclosure of any material, or information directly or indirectly disclosing, or likely to facilitate the disclosure of source's identity. Lord Scarman, in Secretary of State for Defence v. Guardian Newspaper, has pointed out the profound importance of s. 10, is that the English law should move in the direction of a Bill of Right. Thus it gives a qualified privilege allowing journalists and others to refuse to answer questions or disclose documents in court which would lead to revealing the identity of a source of information. In practice this means that journalists have a special privilege which can override the general presumption that rules of evidence are designed to elicit and determine truth in court proceedings. However, the court assumes that the privilege is based on the public interest in receiving information and not on a special protection for journalists.

The Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers has also announced the following recommendations which authorise a journalist not to disclose his source of information:

Principle 1 (Right of non-disclosure of journalists)
Principle 2 (Right of non-disclosure of other persons)
Principle 3 (Limits to the right of non-disclosure)

PRE-HRA INSTANCES:
1. British Steel Corp v. Granada Television case clearly shows the common law stance towards journalists' protection of disclosing source of information. The majority of the House of Lords were of the opinion that it would be opposed to the public interest to recognize any journalists' privilege. Lord Dilhorne considered that journalists should be treated as being in the same position as other citizens. Lord Wilberforce considered that 'this case does not touch upon the freedom of the press even at its periphery'. He recognized that a public interest in the free flow of information exists but considered that it did not take the form of a journalistic privilege; he viewed it merely as a matter that could be taken into account in exercising the judicial discretion to only disclosure. (Fenwick & Phillipson, Media Freedom under the Human Rights Act (2006). Another view that was held by the court, in Norwich Pharmacal Co. v. Customs and Excise Commissioners, was that journalists facilitate the wrong doings of the ...Show more

Summary

BACKGROUND: The Human Rights Act means all public authorities must ensure that everything they do is compatible with the Convention Rights unless an Act of Parliament makes that impossible. The 1950 Convention, which followed the earlier Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948, seeks to give all citizens in Europe certain essential rights and fundamental freedoms…
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