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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Confidentiality - Journalism Law

Confidentiality focuses on private matters and is treated as a civil law. However, secrecy/state secrecy is seen as criminal law. An example of state secrecy would be revealing the location of British troops at any time (without permission).
In Section1 of the ‘Official Secrets Act’ it covers state secrets such as telling enemies of tank positions, or revealing secret codes.

Commercial secrets usually affect businesses ad is seen as civil law. This can include revealing a secret recipe for a certain food or restaurant, or claiming they break certain health rules as this could ruin their business (and would most likely be seen as being published with malice).
If a journalist acquires any of this information from an employee of a company or organisation it would be considered a breach of confidentiality by that person. Also a third party (i.e. - a Journalist) can also be accused.

Common law confidentiality can include hospitals (such as nurses).
An example of a breach of confidentiality case is journalist Graham Punk who published a report of an unclean hospital. Instead of speaking with somebody running the hospital about the issue he automatically published it after receiving the information from a hospital employee. If he tried to sort the problem quietly (and they refused to acknowledge it) then he would have more right to publish the story as it would be seen as a story that requires public attention to try and have it corrected.

Gagging Clauses are used predominantly by the NHS. These are clauses that are included in employee’s contracts that prevent them from revealing certain things and information about the hospital.

It is important to try and gain evidence to claims that you hear from someone. You should also ask permission from that person to publish the story, reminding them that they could be at risk of getting sacked if they were discovered to be the person that leaked the story.
However, it is very important as a journalist that you protect your sources and never reveal them. This is important to Journalists as it helps maintain a good image and enables us to continue getting information that we otherwise would not gain or receive. A bad journalist is one that frequently reveals there sources, or simply makes things up.
If you reveal a source, you are in breach of the Journalists code of conduct. Although, if you receive a court order to reveal them, and don’t, then you are in trouble for contempt of court.

Another journalist involved in a famous confidentiality case is Bill Goodwin who is respected for his commitment to the Journalists Code of Conduct - refusing never to reveal his sources. He printed an article in The Engineer (a respected magazine) claiming that Tetrus (a company) were selling inferior components. They soon went out of business, and after refusing to name his source, Tetrus took him to court in an attempt to make him reveal them. However, he still refused, and said that he was protecting his source. Despite being fined, he appealed repeatedly until eventually (years later) he won. Up to this day he has still not named his source.

Sarah Tisdel Case
When police turned up at the Guardian office looking for the name of a source that reported information regarding MI5, Peter Preston (in charge at the time) handed over an important document that enabled them to identify Sarah Tisdel as the source. The configuration of the letter made it possible to identify her. The Guardian claimed it tried to protect her, and also if they didn’t return the document it would have been considered theft as it had a specific owner.

Accidentally breaking confidentiality act can be used as a defence in some case, but can be difficult to prove. Saying army soliders are returning home could be accidental breach of confidentiality.
Confidential information depends on the type of secret information and whether it has necessary quality for being confidential(ie- must be of some importance)
Official secrets are heavily protected for example you cannot take photographs of arm bases unless given permission. You would have to phone the base, and try to get permission confirmed in writing if possible.

Confidentiality is narrow(unlike defamatory)
-Must be imported to you importing or imposing confidence of confidentiality.
-Must have quality of confidence
-Their must be no permission(evidence needed)
-Detrement(have to show that the report damaged them)

Section 8 - Human Rights Act guarantees the right to normal family/private life. This act relates mainly to photography/filming. You cannot publish photographs without consent unless it is showing them doing a public duty. Sometimes they will attempt to sue, but can also seel the rights to photos of them.
Catherine Zeta Jones is one celebrity that has sued newspapers, including an incident where pcitures of her eating a cake at a wedding were published. Princess Caroline used to be photographed whenever she was out. However, when she was photographed riding a horse she decided to sue the paparazzi and won as none were taken with her decent and none(apart from 1) could claim the photos were of her doing a public duty. THe one that was her doing a public duty was when she handed over a cup on a football field in Monaco.

Celebrities like Princess Caroline, Jamie Theakston, David Beckham and John Terry have invoked many injuctions recently to prevent certain stories from being publioshed.
Naomi Campbell often applies for injunctions(eg- photos of her leaving a rehab clinic).
You should phone(the person involved) to see if a story is true, however it enables them to get an injuction, so that is the risk you must take. However, you can try to get information from the person without making them feel the story is very damaging.
Super Injunction- John Terry got an injunction to prevent The Guardian from revealing he had an injunction.

Explicit consent - agree's to interviews and agrees to be filmed/photographed.
Implied consent- If they react to the camera, or are clearly knowledgable that they were on it)(eg- staring down the lense, waving at the camera, or at a football ground) it can be argued they are giving their consent.

So confidentiality is another barrier that is important for ournalists to keep in mind. You must make sure you don't accidentally get the wrong people in phpotots(people that shouldnt be there) and if possible, always get written consent from those photographed/filmed so that you can publish them without worry of being sued for breaching the human rights act.


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