Shield law would improve protection for journalists

© 2013 Free Press

© 2013 Free Press

A recently approved shield law would offer new protections for reporters and their sources. The lack of a federal shield law “has a direct impact [on] the ability of journalists to do their job,” according to Reporters without Borders. “The confidentiality of their contacts with their sources is an essential condition for freedom of information, especially when sensitive information is involved.”

Progress was made however on Sept. 12, when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013. This is the third time that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has proposed the act to Senate. The law was revived after failing twice, once in 2007 and once in 2009.

The Free Flow of Information Act was created to help protect reporters’ confidential sources if federally prosecuted. “This legislation ensures that the tough investigative journalism that holds government accountable will be able to thrive” said Schumer in a press release.  This bill was brought forward on May 16 by request of the Obama administration in response to the seizure of telephone numbers from the Associated Press by the Department of Justice.

Many organizations like the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) have encouraged people to e-mail their senators to support the federal shield law.  Mac McKerral, former president of SPJ, opposes the law because it creates an extensive list of exceptions and does not offer as much protection as some state shield laws.  Those for and against the law realize it is not perfect. In an interview with U.S. News, David Cuillier, President of SPJ said, “I don’t think the shield law is strong enough. [but] it’s as good as we’re going to get initially.”

Although the law may not be perfect, in the terms of a federal shield law it is a beginning for nationwide protection of reporters and their sources.

A report by RTAmerica discussing the new media shield law and the support given by Presiden Barrack Obama. ©2013 RTAmerica.

-Marisa Bader

 

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