Legal Question in Constitutional Law in Washington

Gag order

A gag order (or ''suppression order'') is an order, sometimes a legal order by a court or government, other times a private order by an employer or other institution, restricting information or comment from being made public.

A gag law is intended to limit freedom of the press, as by instituting censorship or restricting access to information. In the United States, a court can only order parties to a case not to comment on it; a court has no authority to stop unrelated reporters from reporting on a case. Most statutes which restrict what may be reported have generally been found unconstitutional and void.

This may be untouchable Question:

If someone had knowledge of crimal act but signed a Confidential agreement. A gag is placed on them from revealing the truth. I that person became a reporter for a newspaper.

Can the reveal the truth directly or thru another reporter.

Thanks in advance for the truth

Stan

Asked on 9/09/07, 10:33 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman
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Re: Gag order

A confidentiality agreement between private parties cannot trump the requirements of the law. If someone who has signed such an agreement is in a position which requires her to report the crime (if she has been subpoenaed, for example, or is being questioned by police investigating the crime, or has an independent duty to report it), she must answer and disregard the agreement.

Whether the agreement will be binding in other situations will depend upon the nature of the agreement, with whom it was made and the circumstances under which the individual is planning to breach the agreement. Generally courts would frown upon such agreements because they are against public policy, but this will not always be the case.

Journalists present special confidentiality issues in some states, but only when the agreement is made as part of their journalistic duties. Becoming a journalist after the fact does not give special status to prior confidentiality agreements that had nothing to do with journalism.

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9/09/07, 10:41 pm

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