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Journalists not bound to reveal sources: HC

Published : 23 Oct 2022 10:22 PM | Updated : 24 Oct 2022 01:40 PM

The High Court has ruled that journalists are not bound to reveal confidential sources to anyone.

The higher court also made observation that law and constitution allow the journalists to report against corruption and corrupted people in public interest. However, the law has given the protection to journalists in not disclosing the source of information.

The HC bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo made the observation in the full text of judgement of a suo-muto (voluntary) rule released on Sunday (October 23).

In the 51-page judgement, the higher court said, “There is no doubt that the law provides protection to journalists in not disclosing the source of information.”

On March 2 in 2021, a report was published in a Bengali daily titled ‘Engineer Ashraful acquitted for Tk 20 crore! ACC style to curb corruption’.

When the report was brought to the attention of the court, the High Court issued a ruling and summoned the documents of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). Besides, the reporter concerned was also ordered to cooperate with his information.

In the hearing of this rule on June 21 of this year, ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan called the report of the daily as ‘mafia journalism’ and asked for instructions to take action against the reporter.

On other hand, Advocate Mohammad Shishir Manir, a lawyer for the reporter, highlighted the issues of journalistic freedom and freedom of speech contained in the constitution and the principle of non-disclosure of sources in investigative journalism.

In the hearing, the High Court said that this is not a case of contempt of court. However, if anyone has a complaint about any news of any journalist, he can first go to the Press Council before filing it to the High Court. “We did not want to know the source of the journalist's news,” said the higher court.

After the hearing, the High Court disposed of the rule. Besides, the court ordered for re-inquiry about former chief engineer of public works Ashraful Alam and his wife through a new officer excluding the previous officer in the matter of acquisition of wealth outside the known income.

In the full text of the judgement, the court said that Article 39 of the Constitution provides for freedom of expression. Media is the fourth pillar of the state. It is an integral part of democracy. The court said that everyone has the right to know in the modern world.

In the judgement, the court also said that the role of journalists in protecting democracy and the rule of law is undeniable. The job of the media is to make the people aware. Corruption is spreading in every field nowadays. The media can play a vital role against the corruption.

However, referring to yellow journalism as not acceptable and supportable, the High Court said that the media should focus on presenting the true picture of the society.