Federal Media Shield Law Advanced

Bill sets out criteria to protect journalist who protect sources
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WASHINGTON: The House Judiciary Committee has approved a law that would protect journalists who refuse to name sources. H.R. 985 passed out of the committee, headed by John Conyers (D-Mich.), on a voice vote. The “Free Flow of Information Act of 2009” provides protection for “federally compelled disclosure of information by certain persons connected with the news media.”

The bill states that a federal entity can’t compel a journalist to reveal the names of sources unless a court finds they’ve exhausted all “reasonable alternative sources,” or that there are “reasonable grounds to believe a crime has occurred,” and testimony is necessary for prosecution.

Other, similar conditions are set forth for source disclosure regarding potential terrorism, assault, murder, or the illegal sharing of trade secrets, medical and/or other personal records.

The text of the bill is available at THOMAS.

The National Association of Broadcasters welcomed the bill.

“For years, broadcast journalists have demonstrated a commitment to keeping Americans informed with timely investigative reporting on issues of critical importance. Key to this effort is a reporter’s ability to retain access to confidential sources without fear of prosecutorial reprisal,” said the NAB’s Dennis Wharton, himself a former print journalist.

H.R. 985 will now go to the House floor. -- ­­Deborah D. McAdams