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Canada6 December 2004

Ken Peters will not be imprisoned for refusing to name a source

Superior court judge David Cane found reporter Ken Peters of the Hamilton Spectator in contempt for court on 1 December for refusing to name a source but did not fine or imprison him. Sentencing is expected this week and Peters may be ordered to pay legal costs. As the case was heard in a civil court, he will not have a criminal record. Peters was found guilty even though the person he was protecting had identified himself as the source a few days earlier.

26.11.2004 - Sentencing for Ken Peters postponed to 29 November

Ken Peters, the Hamilton Spectator journalist who was found guilty of contempt of court on 16 November for refusing to reveal his sources, will have to wait a few more days to learn his fate. Originally scheduled for 25 November, sentencing has been postponed until 29 November. He faces a prison sentence or a fine.

24.11.2004 - Journalist faces possible imprisonment for refusing to reveal sources

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the penalty that may be imposed on Hamilton Spectator reporter Ken Peters as a result of his being found guilty of contempt of court for refusing to reveal his sources. Sentencing is due tomorrow.

"The confidentiality of sources is very rarely threatened in Canada, and sentencing Ken Peters to a fine or prison term would set a dangerous precedent for press freedom," the organisation said. "If the confidentiality of sources is not guaranteed, no one would agree to reveal sensitive information to journalists."

Peters was found guilty of contempt of court on 16 November by Judge David Crane in Hamilton (on the outskirts of Toronto) after refusing to name a person who was present when sensitive documents were passed to him by a source in 1995. He could be fined or imprisoned, or the judge could decide to impose neither penalty.

The judge had previously ruled that the promise of confidentiality that Peters made to his source did not apply to the other person present at the meeting. Peters argues that complying with the judge’s order would be tantamount to indirectly revealing the identity of his source.

Peters was covering municipal affairs when he was given documents about serious problems at a Hamilton retirement home, which he used as the basis for a series of articles. The retirement home brought a libel action.

Peters’ lawyer said that to his knowledge, no other journalists has been convicted for refusing to reveal their sources in Canada for at least 30 years. In the United States, on the other hand, this kind of prosecution is becoming more frequent. The latest journalist to suffer this fate is Jim Taricani of WJAR-TV who was found guilty of contempt of court on 18 November and faces the possibility of six months in prison.

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