Weatherford Democrat

Z_CNHI News Service

September 27, 2013

EDITORIALS: Shield law needed; No more excuses for inaction on global warming

Shield law must provide broad protections

(The Mankato Free Press / Mankato, Minn.)

On the heels of revelations that the Justice Department had seized the phone records of Associated Press reporters and had traced the emails and calls of a Fox News reporter, Congress seems willing to provide federal protections for journalists and their sources.

Although many states have so-called “shield laws” to protect journalists and their sources, there is no such protection from federal subpoenas or court orders forcing reporters to reveal confidential information or sources.

Because the Supreme Court has never ruled that the First Amendment protects journalists from being compelled to identify confidential information, the federal government has at times gone after journalists to learn the identities of their sources.

Under proposed legislation in Congress, journalists would not have to comply with subpoenas or court orders forcing them to talk, unless a judge first determines a crime has occurred and the government has exhausted all other alternatives. Final bills could be approved by the end of the year.

While there is general support for a federal shield law in Congress and by journalism organizations, a key sticking point has been the seemingly simple question of defining “journalist.”

The draft bill defines a journalist as someone who has a “primary intent to investigate events and procure material” to inform the public. All agree a reporter working for a newspaper, news service or broadcast outlet would be protected. Harder to pin down is whether bloggers and others who use the Internet to disseminate news would be protected.

Some Senators would like to broaden the definition of journalists under the law while still others would like to narrow it even more, fearing that too-broad a definition could protect groups like WikiLeaks.

The existing language in the bill seems to do a good job of balancing various concerns, providing a fairly broad protection to traditional and new journalists without getting tangled up in minutia. And the legislation would provide a safety valve in tricky cases, giving federal judges the discretion to extend protection to people who might not meet the exact criteria of a “journalist” under the bill’s definition.

Text Only
Z_CNHI News Service
Must Read
Top News
House Ads
AP Video
Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City