BOB GARFIELD: We're back with On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone. Since 1993, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has successfully prosecuted perpetrators of genocide and ethnic cleansing, relying heavily on voluntary testimony from reporters, aid workers and governments alike, the key word here being: voluntary. Last week Jonathon Randal, formerly of the Washington Post, became the first journalist and the first American in the history of the court to be issued with a subpoena to testify. The trial he's being called for is that of former Serbian Housing Minister Radoslav Brdjanin, accused of persecution and expulsion of more than a hundred thousand non-Serbs during the Bosnian War. Randal's interview with him was published in the Post in 1993. Now attorneys for the defense want to ask him some questions. Fiona Campbell is part of the legal team working to put Randal's subpoena aside. Fiona, welcome to OTM.
FIONA CAMPBELL: Thank you, Brooke.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is the first time an American has been served with a subpoena by the International Court. As an American, isn't he immune to such a court order?
FIONA CAMPBELL: Not immune. Indeed not. This is an international tribunal with international rules, and the subpoena was validly served. The point is this: that Mr. Randal, in, in being called to give evidence, is being asked to i--describe his news-gathering activities. He's calling upon the tribunal to recognize the special status of journalists and to recognize that there is a principle of qualified privilege. But only in certain very particular and compelling circumstances should journalists be called to give evidence.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Why do they have a special status?
FIONA CAMPBELL:Because they are independent operatives in a war zone, and we, and we emphasize that the story here is about the critical role that reporters, humanitarian workers and other independent aid workers operate in a war zone, and f-- their work can be hampered if they were later considered to be witnesses or compellable witnesses to a trial.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:You said that compulsion is the issue here. Reporters can voluntarily testify. Does Mr. Randal support what the tribunal is trying to do?
FIONA CAMPBELL: Of course. Mr. Randal, more than anyone, who's spent many, many months traveling Bosnia in a, in a very difficult and, and horrible time -- it was his very reports that highlighted the, the atrocities that were being committed back in 1992, 1993. But this is about the competing public interests. On the one hand, the, the obligation to bring people to justice who have committed terrible crimes, and then on the other hand the very need to protect the means by which we communicate these matters to the public and ensure that the public scrutiny that can prevent criminal activity in the future can be un-- proceed unimpeded.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Do you think there ever is a time when a journalist should be forced to give evidence?
FIONA CAMPBELL:Yes. If the evidence is of such compelling nature where there is no alternative, no better evidence that can be called to assist in the resolution of an issue before a tribunal, then yes, it is very likely that the issues of bringing crime to justice will outweigh the competing interest of freedom of speech.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: How do you suppose Mr. Randal will feel if the man being prosecuted in this case gets off because Mr. Randal didn't testify?
FIONA CAMPBELL:Well, that is a most unlikely outcome. The very point of this is that it -- Mr. Randal's evidence is unlikely to make or break any scenario before this tribunal. This is, as we said, about competing interests of justice, and those are, are not lightly tried. And Mr. Randal's primary concern is not for himself but for the future role of, of journalists in conflict zones. It's a, a very dangerous and trying occupation, and it's most important that the news gathering activities of journalists not be put at further risk by them becoming the witness for the prosecution or the witness for the defense. It at worst can lead to, to terrible personal danger; at best to manipulation of the very facts and truth that they are seeking to bring to the world.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well thank you very much.
FIONA CAMPBELL: It's a pleasure, Brooke.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Fiona Campbell is the senior solicitor in the firm Finers, Stevens, Innocent [sp?]. She's the solicitor handling the case on behalf of Jonathon Randal in The Hague. [MUSIC]