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The Media Council of Hawaii ("MCH") has written to state legislators, urging them to reject H.B. 622, the revised, but weakened, proposed shield law that would supplant Hawaii Rev. Stat. sec. 621 that expires in June. With Sen. Cynthia Thielen the lone dissenting vote, lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary & Labor Committee last Friday approved a compromise bill that would make the shield law permanent, but would no longer protect "nontraditional journalists," according to an Associated Press article.
The present law protecting against compelled disclosure of confidential information and sources to authorities shields both traditional print journalists and new media, including bloggers. H.B. 622, backed by Judiciary & Labor Committee Chair Clayton Hee and Hawaii Atty. Gen. David Louie, however, would not cover digital media or free newspapers and magazines.
Critics of the shield law enacted in 2008 say the statute was too vaguely worded and impeded law enforcement, despite its inapplicability in felony and defamation cases (see "TUOL" post 4/4/13). H.B. 622, in contrast, would further be subject to exceptions in civil cases and potential felonies and serious crimes in which someone sustains unlawful injury, according to the AP article. Sen. Thielen, MCH and other media groups wanted to make the current shield law permanent, but otherwise leave its protections unaltered.
HB 622 awaits a vote by the full House & Senate.