Court orders Reuters to disclose source

May 27, 2007
Singapore Democrats

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Reuters
26 May 07

SINGAPORE, May 25 (Reuters) – Reuters identified an anonymous source on Friday after Singapore’s Court of Appeal ordered a reporter for the international news agency to disclose the name and the source gave permission to do so.

The source released the reporter from her duty of confidentiality when it became clear that the reporter would face jail unless she complied with the court order, confirmed by the appeal court on Thursday.

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 is Reuters policy to protect the confidentiality of our sources,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger said. “To defend this principle we challenged the order in court and fought it all the way to Singapore’s Court of Appeal, the highest court in Singapore.”

The reporter had been called to give evidence in a commercial case between two brokers in the city-state, Tullett Prebon and BGC Partners. Tullett Prebon had asked the reporter to identify a source quoted in a story about how the two brokers settled a dispute over the hiring of a team of traders.

The court order obtained by Prebon, and upheld by the appeal court, warned the reporter she faced imprisonment to compel her to comply with the order. Under these circumstances, the source did not want the reporter to break the law and defy the court. The source therefore consented to the disclosure.

“We believe confidentiality of anonymous sources must be protected as it is this trust between source and reporter that brings to light vital information and helps provide the transparency so necessary for the efficient working of markets in a free and vibrant society,” Schlesinger said.

“I regret that the courts ruled against this principle that I believe is so important not only for a free press but also for a clean, orderly and transparent market.”

Reuters uses anonymous sources only when it believes they can provide necessary information that cannot be obtained in another way