Senate fails to advance reporter shield law

August 1, 2008

The Senate version of a law that would shield journalists from federal prosecutors for refusing to disclose their sources and reveal other information, with a few exceptions, stalled July 30 when a Senate cloture vote failed to achieve the 60 votes required.

The cloture vote on the Free Flow of Information Act (S. 2035) received only 51 affirmative votes. The 43 senators opposing cloture, mostly Republicans, said they wanted first to move forward on pending amendments to allow domestic oil and gas production.

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) released a statement following the vote expressing disappointment. SPJ President Clint Brewer said the group will “continue to encourage” members and the public to contact members of Congress requesting it once again take up the federal shield law.

The law would have given journalists the right to refuse to reveal information and sources obtained during the newsgathering process with a few exceptions, including when national security is an issue. Forty-nine states have common-law, statutory or rule-based protections in place to shield journalists and their confidential sources from compelled testimony.

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