Thursday, September 12, 2013

UPDATE: Senate Judiciary Panel Approves Shield Law By 13-5 Vote; Full Senate to Decide

Dianne Feinstein, member of the United States ...
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The Senate Judiciary Committee today voted 13-5 in favor of the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013 (S. 987), setting the stage for a full Senate vote on a federal shield law to protect journalists' confidential sources and information.

According to accounts in The Washington Post and Huffington Post, the Committee, which was unable reach a consensus on the bill before summer recess (See "TUOL" post 8/2/13), found a compromise between Sen. Charles Schumer's (D.-N.Y.) broad definition of a journalist and Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D.-Calif.) narrow interpretation of who should be protected by the federal shield law.

The measure sent to the full Senate covers student journalists and "persons whom a federal judge has decided should be able to avail him or herself of the protections of the privilege, consistent with the interests of justice and the protection of lawful and legitimate newsgathering activities."  Groups such as Wikileaks, would not be shielded under the law.

The measure embraces journalists who had an "employment relationship" for one year within the past 20 years, or three months within the past five years, as well as someone with a "substantial track record" of freelance writing in the past five years. If enacted, the law would not provide an absolute privilege to journalists from having to disclose confidential information in all instances.
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