Online Staff Report
INDIANAPOLIS — National leaders from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) expressed complete disbelief and dismay at Illinois Circuit Court Judge Gerald Kinney’s ruling Sept. 20 that reporter Joseph Hosey must disclose his sources or face jail and fines of $300 per day.
“This is an absolute outrage and an affront to a free press and everything this nation holds dear,” said SPJ President David Cuillier. “I can’t believe an Illinois judge, or any American, for that matter, would think it’s OK to imprison and bankrupt a person for doing his or her job well.
“That’s something I would expect in a third-world country, not here,” Cuillier added.
Kinney ordered the Patch.com reporter from Joliet, Ill., to turn over all documents and sources related to a murder case Josey is covering. If the documents don’t reveal his sources, then Josey is required to sign an affidavit explaining who gave him the records, when and how.
More than 500 police officers, courthouse workers and attorneys were required to submit sworn statements saying they were not the sources. A prosecutor in the case advised that the disclosure of the information did not influence a grand jury’s decision to indict four people in the killings.
“Why in the world would a judge go after a journalist just doing his job, when the reporter’s work seems to have had no negative influence on proceedings?” Cuillier said. “It appears to me that this judge has lost sight of the big picture.”
Journalists rely on a certain amount of reporter’s privilege to protect confidential sources, said Linda Petersen, SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee chairman. This is necessary so workers within government will be willing to come forward with information their bosses might not want out.
“Some of the most important public policy issues and problems in our country were exposed through confidential sources,” Petersen said. “If we don’t protect that process, then sources will keep quiet and the public will suffer.”
Cuillier said SPJ will do everything it can to help Hosey fight, and that higher courts should set things straight to correct Kinney’s error.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more about SPJ, visit www.spj.org.
Posted Sept. 20, 2013