Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Senate Committee to Vote on Federal Shield Law Thursday

Jeff SessionsImage via Wikipedia
Senate Bill 448, the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2009," that would move the federal government closer toward adopting a shield law to protect journalists' confidential sources, is expected to be voted on tomorrow by the 19-member Senate Judiciary Committee.
Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is the ranking member of the committee, which consists of 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans. Except for Wyoming, every state either has enacted a shield law or by virtue of court decisions, accorded journalists the privilege to protect the identity of confidential sources.
Under the proposed measure, the federal government could not compel a shielded individual to testify or provide documents without first demonstrating by a "preponderance of the evidence," the need for such information. 
The federal shield law would require journalists to identify confidential sources if a court finds disclosure necessary to prevent "terrorist activity or harm to the national security," or "death, kidnapping or substantial bodily harm."
The federal bill does not explicitly shield bloggers, as it defines being engaged in journalism as  "the regular gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public."
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