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RTDNA: Urge senators to vote to shield reporters from prying government

The Radio-Television Digital News Association has issued an appeal to its members to contact senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee before a scheduled Sept. 12 vote to urge them to vote in favor of the Free Flow of Information Act (S.987).

The association has published a list of talking points on its website that it is asking its members to cover with senators on the committee.

Among the talking points are:

  • The overreach by the Department of Justice by secretly obtaining reporters’ communications records creates a chilling effect on sources;
  • The DOJ’s proposed revised guidelines are not binding and can be ignored;
  • The proposed legislation creates “clear and reasonable rules” for those seeking information from journalists;
  • The bill sets up independent judicial review of government requests for information from reporters;
  • The bill does not create an “absolute privilege” for journalists and provides for national security exemptions;
  • Urge the senator to vote yes on S.987.

The RTDNA also is recommending that members may want to reference a letter from a coalition of 71 media organizations sent to the committee in July while making their appeal.

On Aug. 1, the Judiciary Committee passed on a voice vote an amendment that strengthened the media shield bill. If enacted, the bill would establish a process for the legal system to approve subpoenas of journalists’ records that weighs the public interest in protecting the freedom of the press against the harm of potential terror attacks. The law would require prosecutors to convince a judge that the information they are after would “prevent or mitigate an act of terrorism or harm to national security.”

The Capitol switchboard telephone number is 202-224-3121.