House Passes Media Shield Law

Bill provides parameters for journalists protecting sources
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Bill provides parameters for journalists protecting sources

WASHINGTON: The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Free Flow of Information Act of 2009, a law that will protect journalists who refuse to name confidential sources. H.R. 985 was authored by Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and sponsored by 49 members.

“The assurance of confidentiality that reporters give to sources is fundamental to their ability to deliver news on highly contentious matters of broad public interest such as corruption in government or misdeeds in corporations,” Boucher stated. “Without the promise of confidentiality, many inside sources would not reveal the information, and opportunity to take corrective action to address the harms would not arise.”

The District of Columbia and 36 states currently have statutes protecting reporters from being forced to name sources. More than 30 reporters in the past few years have been subpoenaed or questioned in federal court about confidential sources, Boucher’s office said. Some have gone to jail, most notably, Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter who was jailed for not disclosing her source of information on the Valerie Plame identity leak.

H.R. 985 protects journalists except in cases where national security is at risk, or bodily harm to someone is imminent. The bill now goes to the Senate. -- Deborah D. McAdams