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September 23, 2023, 1:17 am

Law protects non-disclosure of sources in investigative journalism: High Court

  • Update Time : Monday, October 24, 2022
  • 78 Time View

Online Desk: The High Court on Sunday released the full text of a judgment where it observed that the state’s law protects a journalist authority against having to disclose their sources for investigative reports.

Bench of Justices Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Kazi Ejarul Haque Akondo made the observation in a 51-page verdict on a Suo Moto rule issued after an investigative report published in vernacular daily Inqilab on corruption of a government official was brought to its attention.

“We have no hesitation in saying that journalists are not obliged to disclose their news sources. The Constitution and the law have given them this protection,” the bench observed.

The bench said, ”Article 39 of the Constitution provides the right of freedom of speech. The journalists act as the fourth pillar of democracy and consequently, serve the nation.”

“Newspapers play an important role in highlighting the menace of corruption and thereby the people are made aware of the corrupt practices, if any prevalent, in various state-run departments, agencies and in private organisations. But of course, yellow journalism is always disapproved, discarded and not appreciated at all. Newspapers should concentrate on giving only the true picture of the society,” said the judgement.

On March 2, 2021, Inqilab published a report alleging the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of clearing Housing and Building Research Institute Director General engineer Ashraful Alam and his wife from charges of illegal wealth acquisition, upon receiving Tk 20 crore as bribe.

On March 8, 2021, after the report titled, “Engineer Ashraful’s acquittal in 20 crores! ‘ACC style’ of fighting corruption,” by journalist Sayeed Ahmed Khan was brought to the High Court’s attention, it issued a suo moto rule in this regard.

In the rule the court summoned the documents of the ACC in this case and also ordered the reporter to cooperate by providing information he collected.

On June 21, this year, the bench pronounced a short verdict in this regard.

During the hearing that day, ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan described the report as ‘Mafia Journalism’, and sought directions to take action against the reporter, which was rejected by the court.

Meanwhile, advocate Shishir Monir on behalf of the Inqilab reporter brought forward the issues of freedom of the press and freedom of speech contained in the constitution, and highlighted the principle of non-disclosure of sources in investigative journalism.

According to the verdict, ACC will investigate the corruption allegations against Engineer Ashraful and submit a report in this regard to the High Court. Source UNB

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