Letter seeks support for federal reporter shield law

Three associations sent a letter June 21 to members of the House of Representatives asking them to support federal shield legislation.

The Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA), National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) urged the legislators to support the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007 (H.R. 2102).

Passage of the bill would allow journalists to protect the identity of their confidential sources and “ensure the flow of important information to all Americans,” the letter said.

A bipartisan group of legislators introduced the bill May 2. It included Reps. Rick Boucher, D-VA; John Conyers, D-MI; Mike Pence, R-IN; Howard Coble, R-NC; and John Yarmuth, D-KY; in the House and Sens. Richard Lugar, R-IN; and Christopher Dodd, D-CT; in the Senate.

The bill protects journalists from “being routinely forced” to disclose confidential sources while giving the government the power to compel disclosure under specific circumstances, such as “preventing harm to national security,” the letter said.

The groups authoring the letter reminded lawmakers that 33 states and the District of Columbia have “reporter shield” laws and said it’s time for Congress to put a federal standard in place.

“Compelling journalists to reveal confidential sources impairs the free flow of information on matters of importance to the public interest,” the letter said. Stories, such as accounting illegality at Enron, outpatient care deficiencies at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the use of steroids in the MLB, “depended on confidential sources,” it said.

For more information, visit www.rtnda.org/news/2007/ShieldLetter.pdf.