National security not higher than secrecy of sources: Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: Journalists have the right to conceal and protect their sources in public interest but when it comes to national security, secrecy of sources cannot be of higher importance, Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday said.

Delivering the Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture here, he said a long-pending dispute or issue of debate is about the right of journalists regarding protecting their sources.

“I think the way courts world over have moved, is the correct direction. There is no fundamental right to conceal your sources but there is public interest which enables you to conceal your sources. And that public interest therefore will always have to be balanced with competing public interest,” Jaitley, himself a lawyer of repute, said.

He said that if it’s a matter of individual reputation, the public interest of secrecy of source will have to be maintained but if it is national security, “national security will be considered much higher than the secrecy of sources itself”.

That’s how the trends of decision making world over is moving, he said.

In the lecture, Jaitley also referred to various other issues related to media including procedures of defamation.

Referring to the demand related to decriminalisation of defamation, he said that it has been seen that countries which have decriminalised it are the ones where the civil proceedings regarding such an offence are expeditious.

He also said with the advent of Internet, the situation has changed and any news published in one part of the globe can be read in another and various jurisdictions deal with defamatory content differently.