Truth and the unnamed source

Damian Carney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many writers on the topic of the ‘reporter’s privilege’ (ie where journalists claim the right not to reveal the identity of sources left unnamed in their articles) have portrayed the issue as simply a conflict between press freedom, and the right of courts to hear everyman’s testimony. So when a cause célèbre occurs in which the identity of an unnamed source is sought (such as the Canadian case of R v National Post and Financial Times v United Kingdom (the ‘Interbrew case’) which are featured in this article) there is a tendency amongst the press to circle their wagons and defend the threatened journalist, arguing that the ‘reporter’s privilege’ is an absolute and primary tenet of journalistic codes of ethics.4 This is not only unconvincing but, as this paper will show, wrong. It fails to appreciate the potential conflict that adherence to protection of anonymous sources has with a principle which seems even more fundamental and is a universal value in media codes of ethics and conduct—namely, the need to report the truth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-145
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Media Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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