Launch of new UNESCO study on confidentiality of journalism sources

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Left to Right: Julie Posetti, Giles Trendle, Scilla Alecci, Wahyu Dhyatmika, Rana Sabbagh, Anas Areyemaw Anas, Maria Ressa at the Jakarta World Press Freedom Day 2017 ceremony.
© UNESCO
04 May 2017

Three years in the making, a benchmark study titled Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age has been launched by UNESCO.

Commissioned from the global newspaper association WAN-IFRA, it is the 9th in UNESCO’s Internet Freedom Series.

The study is authored by digital journalism trainer and Journalism Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong, Julie Posetti, and was made possible with the support of Sweden.

Timed to coincide with World Press Freedom Day conference in Jakarta, the publication was formally launched during a plenary session on investigative journalism on 4 May.

The study identifies new developments that impacted on the confidentiality of journalists’ sources between 2007 and 2015 - such as digital surveillance, data retention practices, device seizures and national security and anti-terrorism laws.

The result is that many existing laws to protect confidentiality are becoming outdated and risk becoming ineffective.

Caution is expressed in the book that without revisions to reverse erosions of confidentiality, the future of investigative journalism could come under threat – leaving many stories of corruption and abuse hidden from public view.

The study proposes an 11-point assessment tool for establishing the effectiveness of legal source protection frameworks.

Its findings are based on research by a 17-strong team that examined at 121 countries, analysed more than 130 survey responses, and conducted qualitative interviews with nearly 50 journalists and international experts.

Preliminary results of the research have already contributed to the 2015 UNESCO study Keystones to foster inclusive Knowledge Societies. Access to information and knowledge, Freedom of Expression, Privacy, and. Ethics on a Global Internet. An overview was initially published in 2015 as part of World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development – Special Digital Focus.