Not revealing a confidential source is one of the rules journalists learnt when they study journalism or enter a media organization.
Journalists consider a promise to protect the identity of a confidential source a sacred trust.
This relationship is so sacred that legal battles often arise out of a reporter's insistence on protecting his or her source in the face of judicial subpoenas commanding otherwise.
Journalists sometimes end up in court for not revealing their sources and in other countries, the court rules that a journalist who fails to comply with a subpoena can be held in contempt of court and fined or even sent to jail.
Going to the court should be the last resort if the public so wish to know the identity of ‘sources’ but lest they forget, journalists would not reveal their ‘sources’ as per their rule or ethic.
Ruthless as it seems, this is how journalists and even newsroom staff are trained to answer to public queries regarding revealing ‘sources’.
In Solomon Islands, man hunting for unnamed source(s) giving information to the media is a norm. Public Servants are not allowed to give information to the media except from the senior officers like the Permanent Secretaries.
As such public servants are reluctant to talk or answer queries from the media.
If they do, public servants will only talk or give information on condition of anonymity. In such instances, it would seem the information is not credible.
Some editors would not allow stories from unnamed sources to be published because it would deemed ‘crap’ and holds no water, but in Solomon Islands, stories from anonymous sources sometimes gets published, broadcasted or televised.
The fact is that ‘sources’ from within the public services or private institutions and business establishment are credible and trustworthy, except that they fear retribution from their superiors for the information they spill.
There are people within the government or senior officers within an organization that have inside information of injustices, corrupt dealing and unwise decisions made by their superiors.
They see what is happening and they would be in a position to blow it out before the country or that organization suffers the consequences.
Unfortunately, such whistle blowers are rare and if they do blow the whistle, they fear being ostracized, demoted or sacked if found.
The man hunt for people giving information to the media is real and happening and if found these ‘informers’ or ‘sources’ will be penalized or even sacked.
The media respect their sources and as such would not under any circumstances reveal their identities. A journalist who is lured with money or reward to reveal his or sources is unethical and will only lose the trust of his or her source and paints a bad image of his/her employer (media organization).
The insistence of Ministry of Tourism and Culture under the directive of the Prime Minister’s Office to find the culprit who gave information to this paper and Attorney General Chambers for us to reveal the name of our informer for news carried in this paper in the past few days are but a few examples of man hunting for sources as against our ethics.
Whilst man hunting for ‘confidential sources’ is in the best interest of the government or any business and organization for that matter, it is not in our interest and would be unethical to the journalism profession we are obliged to follow.