Thursday, October 18, 2007
U.S. House Passes Press Shield Bill
SPJ leaders praise House Representatives
for passing the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007
For Immediate Release:
Clint Brewer, President, (615) 668-4535
Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 507-8911
INDIANAPOLIS – Leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists are pleased with today’s passage of the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007. The legislation was introduced in May by Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.). With 71 co-sponsors, the bill was passed today by a landslide vote of 398 to 21.
“Today’s vote in the House is a victory for a free press and for the American people as much as journalists,” SPJ President Clint Brewer said in reaction to the vote. “This law is in the interest of democracy. Journalists must be able to protect confidential sources in order to truly report on the operations of our government. This will allow journalists to do their jobs without fear of prosecution from the very federal government they are covering.”
The Society still awaits a full vote on S. 2035, which passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 4. This bill is also known as the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007.
“Protections provided by the Free Flow of Information Act I submit are necessary so that members of the media can bring forward information to the public without fear of retribution or prosecution, and more importantly, so that sources will continue to come forward,” Rep. Pence said in a House speech today. “Compelling reporters to testify, and in particular, compelling them to reveal the identity of confidential sources, is a detriment to the public interest. Without the promise of confidentiality, many important conduits of information about our government will be shut down. The dissemination of information by the media to the public on matters ranging from the operation of our government to events in our local communities is invaluable to the operation of democracy. Without the free flow of information from sources to reporters, the public will be ill-prepared to make informed choices.”
The House version of the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007, or the federal shield bill, would protect the public’s right to speak out and promote the people’s right to know. It calls for a qualified privilege that would make it easier for journalists to protect the identities of their sources and the information provided by those sources.
In the past year, SPJ has raised more than $30,000 to support a campaign for the passage of a federal shield law. The work to ensure passage of such a law is ongoing. To learn more about SPJ’s efforts, please visit SPJ's Shield Law page.
“Journalists and engaged citizens should continue to let Congress know that a free press is vital to a healthy democracy,” Brewer said. “SPJ’s national leaders will continue to work toward passage of the shield law.”
The shield, as drafted, may apply not only to traditional print, television and radio journalists, but also may include coverage for freelancers and bloggers.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have various statues that protect journalists from being forced to testify or disclose sources and information. No statutory protection currently exists for federal cases.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For further information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.