Thursday, December 17, 2009

Senate action moves Shield Law closer to reality

Larry Margasak of the Associated Press reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee last week ended months of inaction on a bill to protect reporters' confidential sources in federal court , clearing the way for a reconciliation with a House version before consideration by the White House.

The bill does not give journalists absolute authority to protect sources. Those rights can be overridden in national security cases.

"After years of debate and countless cases of reporters being held in contempt, fined and even jailed for honoring their professional commitment not to publicly reveal their sources, the time has come to enact a balanced federal shield law," said the committee chairman, Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.).

Conservative Republicans and some in the intelligence community opposed it, citing dangers to national security.

The bill broadly defines journalists to include bloggers, citizen journalists and freelancers. It also relies on court tests to determine whether sources deserve protection.

Most states have either state media shield laws or court cases establishing the protection.