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Lawmakers make new bid to pass federal shield law

By The Associated Press
05.03.07

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers from both parties are making a new effort to pass a federal shield law to protect reporters from being forced to reveal their sources.

The bill, co-sponsored by Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate, would write into federal law the protection for reporters now granted by more than 30 states and the District of Columbia.

Such protection, First Amendment advocates say, would give government whistleblowers more reason to reveal corruption when they know that reporters will be shielded in most cases from prosecutors’ efforts to reveal information.

“The protections provided by the Free Flow of Information Act are necessary so that members of the media can bring forward information to the American public without fear of retribution or prosecution,” U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said in a prepared statement.

Anticipating objections from the Bush administration, the sponsors have included exceptions that would apply if the judge in a case determined the public interest in disclosing the source outweighed the public interest in newsgathering, said Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., who with Pence is one of the lead sponsors of the bill.

For example, a judge could require a reporter to reveal a source to prevent imminent death or harm to national security.

The bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Dick Lugar, R-Ind.


Update
White House again voices opposition to shield law for reporters
Justice Department official says bill's broad definition of who is a journalist includes bloggers, thus would pose significant problems for federal investigators. 06.15.07

Previous
Bush administration opposes journalist shield law
Deputy attorney general tells Senate panel that proposal to protect reporters from having to identify their sources would encourage leaks of classified information. 09.21.06

Related

At ASNE, Specter advocates passage of shield law

Pennsylvania senator says journalists do more to shed light on corruption and mismanagement 'than all congressional oversight combined,' but fear of being jailed can hinder their work. 03.28.07

Mass. lawmakers mull putting reporter's privilege on books
By Courtney Holliday Measure would allow journalists to maintain source confidentiality except in limited circumstances. 05.31.07

Vt. high court: Reporter who attended public meeting must testify
Journalists have no First Amendment privilege when information sought derives from their eyewitness observations, justices rule. 09.10.07

Protecting reporters' privilege?
By Alicia Armbruster Study finds current version of bill proposing federal shield law would solve key concerns among journalists trying to protect confidential sources. 04.12.07

Internet expanding scope, meaning of ‘free press’
By Gene Policinski Bloggers, citizen journalists raise legal issues about who constitutes 'the press' — including whom a proposed federal shield law would protect from revealing confidential sources. 06.03.07

Shield laws


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