The European Commission of Human Rights is to refer the case after ruling that the British government violated the reporter's rights, it was disclosed yesterday.
Bill Goodwin, 27, was fined for contempt of court in 1990 when, as a trainee reporter for the Engineer, he refused to reveal who gave him financial information about a computer company. He claims the court order breached his freedom of expression safeguarded by the European Human Rights Convention.
The company, Tetra Ltd, said the details had come from a stolen copy of its confidential corporate plan.
The National Union of Journalists backed Mr Goodwin's appeal to the Commission, following unsuccessful challenges in the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.
The Human Rights Convention, to which Britain is a signatory, includes an article guaranteeing 'freedom of expression' except in cases where restrictions are imposed which are considered 'necessary in a democratic society'.
In ruling that the Government had violated Article 10 of the Convention of Human Rights, the Commission said: '(We) consider that the protection of the sources from which journalists derive information is an essential means of enabling the press to perform its important function of 'public watchdog' in a democratic society.'Reuse content