Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Shield law" on back burner in Senate

The Free Flow of Information Act (national shield law legislation) passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2007, and the National Association of Broadcasters is now urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the bill to a vote in the full Senate.

In a January 28 letter to Reid, Rehr says of the bill, which would set standards for when federal courts can and cannot force journalists to reveal their sources, "This legislation will help ensure the flow of important information to all Americans by allowing journalists to protect the identity of their confidential sources."

Rehr continues, "Broadcast journalists take seriously their responsibility of serving every local community with timely news and information. This bipartisan legislation strikes a careful balance between ensuring citizens stay informed and honoring the public interest in having reporters testify about their sources in certain carefully defined situations."

Those situations would include disclosures that could prevent imminent terrorist action or significant harm to national security. Rehr notes that 33 states and the District of Columbia have shield laws in place already, and 16 other states have recognized reporters' privilege in court cases. "However," he says, "there is no uniform set of standards in federal courts to govern when testimony about sources may be sought from reporters."

The House approved a companion bill in October, and Rehr is requesting Reid's support in bringing the bill, with its current language in place, to a vote in the Senate.
-- from Radio Ink magazine.