The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a coalition of news media organizations will file a friend-of-the-court brief to the New York Court of Appeals on Friday in support of New York Times journalist Frances Robles. Robles is seeking to quash a subpoena for her testimony and notes from a jailhouse interview with Conrado Juarez, who is on trial for the murder of “Baby Hope.”
“It is absolutely necessary for reporters to be able to develop trust and relationships with sources and protect their materials gathered during the reporting process,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Forcing them to reveal either in court threatens their ability to bring important and newsworthy information to light.”
The brief argues that New York’s Shield Law protects Robles from being forced to testify because it recognizes that, in addition to confidential sources and materials, nonconfidential work product is also privileged.
“As these and other courts have recognized, the qualified reporter’s privilege for nonconfidential but unpublished materials protects journalists’ ability to cultivate the trust of sources of newsworthy information,” the brief states. “Sources who believe that reporters are likely to be forced to testify against them in court, even on nonconfidential matters, or who believe that reporters are investigative agents of the government, may refuse to speak to reporters at all.”
From the brief:
“[T]he qualified reporter’s privilege for nonconfidential, unpublished information encourages sources to speak with reporters, protects the press’s editorial independence and willingness to report on controversial subjects, and frees the news media to spend its time and resources reporting the news. It is the public, ultimately, that benefits from these effects of the privilege. Reporters’ ability to protect nonconfidential information from disclosure is essential to the free flow of information from the news media to the public. Without the privilege, the news media – and thereby, the public – would lose its source of information on matters of public concern such as crime, corporate malfeasance, and government corruption.”
The Reporters Committee produces a guide about reporter’s privilege policies in each state and federal circuit. For more about New York’s Shield Law, please visit https://www.rcfp.org/new-york-privilege-compendium.
The full coalition brief is available here.