US Court: NGOs enjoy privilege in relation to sources

The US District Court for Eastern New York has held that human rights organisations have an equivalent right to protect their sources to that enjoyed by journalists. The case concerned an Amnesty International report in which lawyers – quoted anonymously – expressed concerns that their meetings with clients at a federal jail were being secretly videotaped. The Court held that Amnesty was not obliged to reveal its sources.

The decision is an important one – important enough to perhaps be litigated further and to higher federal courts – because human rights organisations such as Amnesty, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch (for example) frequently rely on victims and others for their reports, while those from whom testimonials are taken rely on anonymity for their safety.