The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld a state law that protects news reporters from being forced to disclose confidential sources, saying reporters have a “right to report news, regardless of how the information was received,” reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. In a 4-1 decision, the court reaffirmed the shield law, enacted in 1937, and said it provided an “absolute protection” of a source’s identity – even if the information involves a grand-jury matter. “The Shield Law was enacted to protect the free flow of information to the news media in their role as information providers to the general public,” Chief Justice Ronald Castille wrote.
The ruling came in a case in which two former Lackawanna County commissioners sued the Scranton Times-Tribune over a 2004 story that reported that they were not cooperative during grand-jury testimony about alleged brutality at the county prison. Representing the ex-commissioners, Philadelphia attorney Richard Sprague contended that an exception should be made because the communication violated the state Grand Jury Act and constituted a crime. Sprague questioned whether a source even existed and said the two former commissioners should be allowed to find out to help press the defamation case against the paper. The justices said that only those who take an oath of secrecy before a grand jury can violate that oath.