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Global press body disappointed by SA court ruling

17th November 2003

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The International Press Institute (IPI), said today that it is disappointed at the decision of the Bloemfontein High Court to disregard the right of journalists to keep their sources confidential.

IPI claims that on November 11, Judge President JP Malherbe upheld the ruling of Judge Joos Hefer that Ranjeni Munusamy must testify before the Hefer Commission in Bloemfontein.

IPI says it views the qualified right of journalists to keep their sources confidential to be an essential part of an ‘open and democratic society’ and that in examining this argument the court could have given greater weight to international and foreign law, and believes the court could have been persuaded by the decision of an appeals panel of the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, which overturned a decision compelling Washington Post journalist Jonathan Randal to testify before the tribunal.

Based this interpretation of international and foreign law, IPI believes it would have been possible for the South African High Court to construct a suitable legal framework that provided a qualified right of confidentiality.

The institute says that the denial of this right will seriously impede the work of South African journalists who in the future will be forced, at every stage of the interview process, to seek legal advice on what conversations they can and cannot be a party to, with the overall effect will be an extreme deterrence on individuals coming forward to provide information that is in the public interest.
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