Jamie Kalven should not be forced to testify

Jamie Kalven, right, could be forced to testify in the trial of Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago Police officer who shot Laquan McDonald. (Marc Monaghan photo via Flickr)

The Chicago Headline Club stands behind journalist Jamie Kalven, who has twice received the club’s prestigious Watchdog Award for Excellence in Public Interest Reporting. Kalven was recognized for his investigation into Laquan McDonald’s death, in which he uncovered that the black teenager was fatally shot 16 times by a white police officer. The number and direction of the shots contradicted official police statements, raising questions of excessive police force and misconduct.

This week, Kalven could be forced to testify about his reporting of that fatal 2014 shooting, even though Illinois law states that reporters cannot be compelled to testify about their sources except under extraordinary circumstances. The Chicago Headline Club believes forcing him to testify would violate the Illinois Reporter’s Privilege Act and could make other confidential sources fearful of speaking to the press.

We believe that the public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources. At times, however, sources who have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere ask for anonymity to protect themselves and their families from danger, retribution or other harm. These requests are not taken lightly and are weighted against the public’s right to know.

It is clear that without Kalven’s reporting and the courage of his sources to provide information the public might have never known the truth of the night McDonald was shot while walking away from officers. This case is not — and should not be — about Kalven’s reporting, but about finding justice for Laquan McDonald.