Reporter’s Privilege In Illinois

The information comes from IBA Counsel Don Craven.

Reporter’s Privilege

The Reporter’s Privilege is “[a] reporter’s protection, under constitutional or statutory law, from being compelled to testify about confidential information or sources.”  Black’s Law Dictionary (9th Ed.2009), privilege.

Today there is no federal shield law.  However, many federal courts recognize that the First Amendment creates a reporter’s privilege to refuse to disclose confidential sources or other information obtained while gathering information with an intent to disseminate it to the public.

Reporter’s Privilege in Illinois

Under the Illinois Reporter’s Privilege, reporters are not required to disclose the source of any information unless a court finds that “all other available sources of information have been exhausted” and that “disclosure of the information sought is essential to the protection of the public interest involved.” 735 ILCS 5/8-907. The statute is designed to preserve the autonomy of the press by allowing reporters to assure their sources of confidentiality, permitting the public to receive complete, unfettered information. In re Arya, 266 Ill. App. 3d 848, 852, 589 N.E.2d 832, 834 (1992).
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Reporter’s Privilege Cases

The following are cases dealing with Reporter’s Privilege statutes that the Craven Law Office actively participated in.

In re Arya – Action brought by the state to divest a reporter of his statutory privilege in connection with video tapes and notes pertaining to a triple murder and armed robbery.  The circuit court divested the reporter of his privilege, ordered production of the video tapes and notes, and held the reporter in contempt for failing to produce the material.  The appellate Court vacated and remanded holding that “other available sources: of information that the State must exhaust before seeking to divest a reporter of his statutory privilege are specific persons and things that can themselves provide the sought-after testimony or evidence and are not law enforcement procedures or methods of investigation.  The trial court sho8uld have considered the contents of discovery material that the State’s available sources were exhausted by the State and that the last resort to get the information should be a divestiture of a reporter’s statutory privilege.

People v. Slover – Defendants in murder trial sought to force newspaper to turn over unpublished photographs after newspaper failed to comply with subpoena.  The Circuit Court cited the newspaper librarian for contempt.  The Appellate court held that the photographers were “reporters” for purposes of the Reporter’s Privilege Statute that granted privilege to persons regularly engaged in collection of news and that the photographs were a “source of information” as defined by statute granting privilege against disclosure of a newspaper’s sources of information.