By Benjamin Feldheim
The Society of Professional Journalists has publicly urged a Will County judge to rescind an order for Patch Editor Joe Hosey to reveal a confidential source or face jail time if he doesn’t comply.
The national organization released a statement Monday in support of Hosey, who was ordered by Will County Judge Gerald Kinney to give up the source of police and autopsy reports in the Hickory Street murder case. Hosey could be held in contempt of court for refusing to turn over the source and could face as much as six months in jail as a result.
“The Illinois statute protecting reporters and giving journalists a privilege is well established; it has been on the books for 31 years,” reads the SPJ’s statement. “It says that a reporter can be stripped of the privilege only when ‘all other sources of information have been exhausted’ and the ‘disclosure of the information sought is essential to protection of the public interest involved.’
“Protection of the criminal defendants’ rights is not the issue in the case. The identity of the source is not relevant to the murder cases. Kinney acknowledges as much: In his order, he says that he previously ‘has indicated that these inquiries may seem to be off topic’ in the context of a murder trial.”
If Kinney doesn’t drop the order, Patch Media intends to appeal.
“We, as an organization of 8,000 journalists and journalism supporters, cannot stand by and let this happen,” said SPJ President David Cuillier in the statement. “Society depends on leakers. We rely on people providing us information that we care about, even if the government doesn’t want it out — even if the information is inconvenient.”
The Chicago Headline Club, which serves as the SPJ’s local chapter, also called upon Kinney to rescind his order in late August.
Hosey’s next hearing is scheduled for Friday in Joliet.