Can student journalists claim reporter’s privilege?

Q: Are student journalists allowed to claim reporter’s privilege to protect the identity of their sources?

A: State reporter’s privilege laws allow journalists to withhold confidential newsgathering materials from the parties in a criminal investigation or a civil lawsuit. In most states, the shield applies to anyone who regularly gathers and distributes news to the public — including unpaid student journalists. You can click here to find your state’s shield law. 

Nine states do not have reporter’s shield laws: Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wyoming. Some states without a shield law do recognize a qualified privilege; you can contact our legal hotline for more specific help.

Every week, Student Press Law Center attorneys answer a frequently asked question about student media law in “Ask SPLC.”

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