Dáil Éireann - Volume 459 - 14 December, 1995

Written Answers. - Protection of Journalists' Sources.

31. Mr. M. Kitt asked the Minister for Justice the plans, if any, she has to confer privilege on journalists in respect of communications made to them in the course of investigating matters of public interest; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16547/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): The Government Policy Agreement contains a commitment that the Government will examine the possibility of legislating to enable journalists to protect the confidentiality of their sources in certain circumstances. That examination is being undertaken in the context of the Law Reform Commission Report on Contempt of Court. It is important to bear in mind that it is essential that there is a proper balance maintained between competing rights in this area. There are differences of view, and the commission's report demonstrated this, as to how exactly the balance should be struck.

I recognise the important role which the media have to play in a democratic society. However, it is equally important to bear in mind that the priority which journalists give to protecting their sources in certain circumstances can conflict with the fundamental rights of others. At present the courts decide whether the interests of justice require that a source be revealed in a particular case.

The matter is clearly complex and when I have finalised proposals on it I will bring them before Government and they will be announced in the usual way.