Editorial: Hope for a federal shield law
The Free Flow of Information Act, the federal shield law for journalists, looks like it’s back on track after nearly being derailed by objections from the White House last month.
The law would provide limited protection to journalists who receive information from government whistle-blowers and other anonymous sources.
President Barack Obama was a supporter of Senate Bill 448, but changed his mind after meeting with national security officials. Without the support of the president, it was unlikely the act would make its way through Congress.
Last week the Obama administration, media organizations and members of the Senate who have been working on the legislation reached a compromise that balances national security with your right to know.
The American Society of News Editors and the more than 70 other media organizations and companies seeking a federal shield law support the agreement. We urge the Senate Judiciary Committee, which may vote on the bill as soon as Thursday, to approve S. 448 and send it along for approval by the full Senate and the House of Representatives.
ASNE President Marty Kaiser said he was pleased the White House listened to the objections of his group and those of Judiciary Committee members. “While not perfect, this is a huge stride forward from the administration’s prior position and provides statutory protection that far exceeds that which is currently available to a reporter who is served with a subpoena in a federal proceeding,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser said the organization is also glad the definition of a journalist was expanded so financial compensation wasn’t the determining factor. “This ensures that the valuable work done by student journalists, freelance book authors and qualifying bloggers will be protected,” Kaiser said.
We share Kaiser’s hope the legislation is approved by the Senate and signed by the president “before any more journalists must choose between breaking a promise or going to jail.”
The shield law not only helps journalists in their roles as watchdogs of government, but helps you the public know what officials are up to.
Rockford Register Star