Patch editor Joseph Hosey has won the 2014 John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award, awarded by the National Press Club, for refusing to divulge his sources under the threat of fines and jail time.
The National Press Club, founded in 1908, is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the club defends the rights of reporters and fights for transparency worldwide.
Hosey has been a Patch journalist since 2010. He resides in suburban Chicago with his wife and is the father of two daughters.
Joseph Hosey was held in contempt of court last year by a judge in Will County, IL, who fined Hosey $1,000, plus $300 a day for every day Hosey does not disclose a source's name. If Hosey loses the appeal, which is now pending, he faces indefinite jail time if he does not divulge the source. The fines have been stayed while the appeal is ongoing.
Hosey's supposed offense is refusing to disclose who provided him with police reports about a grisly double murder in Joliet—reports that he used to produce stories on the incident for Patch.com, a network of U.S. news sites that cover local events.
Illinois has a shield law meant to protect journalists from having to divulge confidential sources. But it is a qualified shield, not an absolute one. The trial judge found that the identity of the source was relevant, that alternative sources had been exhausted, and that the information was essential to protect the public interest. Much of that finding hinged on the fact that the court made 500 law enforcement officials swear that they were not the source—and thus finding out if one of them was lying was called "relevant" to the proceedings.
A coalition of media organizations, including the National Press Club, found this to be circular logic and filed a friend of the court brief in Hosey's case. Learning the identity of Hosey's source would have no bearing on the guilt or innocence of the alleged murderers, but it could adversely affect press freedom, the organizations contended.
The Press Freedom Award is presented to two journalists every year, one in the United States and the other to an international journalist.
The international recipient is Ahmed Humaidan Bahrain. Humaidan has been in jail since 2012 and was sentenced last month to 10 more years in jail. Humaidan has told his family and his lawyer that his interrogators subjected him to psychological torture and threatened to kill him. He was accused of attacking a police station, but independent observers say his only crime was cataloguing in photographs a violent regime crackdown on demonstrators in the country's civil conflict.The Press Freedom honors will be presented at the club's annual awards dinner on July 30.
- USA Today's Rem Rieder on Patch and the Hosey case
- Fox News on Patch's First Amendment Fight
- Chicago Tribune editorial in support of Patch
- Poynter: Patch Will Appeal Judge's Ruling