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Judge Rules Reporters Can Keep Sources Confidential

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
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A federal district judge in New York upheld the right to two NY Times reporters to maintain the confidentiality of their sources and said the Justice Department may not inspect their phone records to learn who the reporters talked with. Noting that “secrecy in government appears to be on the increase,” Judge Robert W. Sweet said in a 120-page order that “secrecy may well be seen as the enemy of freedom when it conceals facts important to public understanding.” He said a “free press has long performed an essential role in ensuring against abuses of governmental power.” Sweet’s decision said the 1972 Branzburg v. Hayes Supreme Court decision gave reporters broad First Amendment protections. That opinion stands in stark contrast to a ruling a week earlier by a three-judge federal appeals court panel in Washington. It said the Branzburg ruling gave reporters little protection. (2/25/05)