In the news:
Media-shield act moves on to the full Senate
The media-shield legislation to be debated on the Senate floor will cover journalists who had an “employment relationship” for one year within the past 20 years, or three months within the past five years, and someone with a “substantial track record” of freelancing in the pa
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — A Senate panel Thursday backed legislation that would offer protections to a broad variety of journalists who do not want to divulge their confidential sources of information.
The key point of debate over the bill, which was advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 13 to 5 vote, had been the definition of a journalist.
The version to be debated on the Senate floor will cover journalists who had an “employment relationship” for one year within the past 20 years, or three months within the past five years, and someone with a “substantial track record” of freelancing in the past five years.
Student journalists are covered under the media-shield legislation, as are individuals “whom a federal judge has decided should be able to avail him or herself of the protections of the privilege, consistent with the interests of justice and the protection of lawful and legitimate newsgathering activities.”
Groups such as WikiLeaks, which are not considered news outlets under the bill, would not be protected, according to congressional employees.
President Obama had urged Congress to pass a media-shield law, especially in light of criticism that the Justice Department had been too aggressive in pursuing leak investigations and was infringing on media freedoms.
The legislation advanced by the Senate panel on Thursday, the “Free Flow of Information Act,” does not provide an absolute privilege to journalists. The legislation sets up a legal process for approving subpoenas for reporters’ records or sources. And it would require a judge, not the attorney general, to approve the subpoenas.
The legislation includes exceptions. Journalists, for example, would not be protected in “classified leak cases when information would prevent or mitigate an act of terrorism or harm to national security.”
In a statement, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press welcomed the legislation. “It’s not a perfect bill, but it goes a long way toward ensuring that reporters will be protected from subpoenas for their confidential information and sources,” said Gregg Leslie, the group’s legal-defense director.