Editor's note: Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed H.B. 5212 into law on June 6, 2006.
HARTFORD, Conn. — A bill to protect journalists from being forced to reveal
confidential sources is headed to Gov. M. Jodi Rell's desk after receiving final
legislative approval from the House of Representatives yesterday.
State Rep. James Spallone, D-Essex, said the bill "will underscore that a
free and vigorous press, and an independent press, is important to a healthy
The bill unanimously passed the Senate early yesterday, then passed the House
136-11 later in the day.
A spokesman for Rell said she would sign the bill, which would then take
effect Oct. 1.
Among the opponents was state Rep. Robert Farr, R-West Hartford, who said the
bill would make reporters a privileged class and apparently would protect even
people who reveal confidential information on blogs, Internet sites that include
postings on various topics, or in newsletters.
The bill covers people who work for a variety of newspapers, magazines, radio
and television stations, and electronic media. The Senate had considered
excluding blogs and limiting protections to people with journalism degrees, but
later removed both provisions.
Similar laws are already in place in at least 31 states and Washington,
"I think it's a great development for journalists working across the state,"
said WTNH-TV news director Kirk Varner, who testified in favor of the bill on
behalf of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information.
Varner said: "A lot of issues came up in the consideration of the law and I
think it was good because the impact of how journalists treat confidential
sources was reviewed at length, and ultimately a bill's been drafted that we
think addresses the need, not only here in Connecticut, but hopefully on the
federal level as well."
But not everyone in the news media favored the bill. Chris Powell, managing
editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, said it would make
reporters a privileged class not bound by the same laws as the public.
"It does not recognize that the First Amendment rights belong to everybody,
that anybody can be a journalist at any time, at any moment," he said.
He said the bill would have little practical effect because it would allow
judges to compel disclosure of confidential sources if there was an overriding
public interest. He said the legislature could have done something more useful,
such as guaranteeing people the right to take notes in courtrooms.
Reporters from The Hartford Courant and the Farmington Post
said that a judge prohibited them from taking notes while covering a sentencing
this week. The Judicial Branch is reviewing the incident.
"There are outrages happening against the public's right to know that they do
nothing about," Powell said.
A state shield law was proposed last year after several high-profile cases
across the nation in which reporters served or were threatened with jail time
for refusing to reveal their sources. But the bill never made it to the full
legislature for a vote.
The bill was championed this year by Jim Taricani, a Connecticut native and a
Rhode Island TV reporter who spent four months in home confinement last year
after refusing to disclose a source.