SOURCE: Newspaper Association of America

October 04, 2007 15:18 ET

Media Groups Applaud Senate Committee's Support of Shield Law Bill

Step Brings Federal Protection of Confidential Sources One Step Closer to Senate Floor Vote

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - October 4, 2007) - The Free Flow of Information Act of 2007 (S. 2035) reported out by a 15 to 2 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee was applauded by more than 50 media companies and organizations today. With the instrumental leadership of Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and the sponsors of S. 2035, a federal shield bill is one step closer to a Senate floor vote.

The supporters of S. 2035 in the final roll call vote were: Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA), Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Joseph Biden (D-DE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Herb Kohl (R-WI), Richard Durbin (R-IL), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) opposed the legislation, and Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) abstained from the roll call vote.

The need for a federal shield law is long overdue. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia offer some degree of shield law protection, while an additional 16 have seen judicial decisions supporting the safeguarding of confidential sources' identities. At the federal level, however, there is currently no shield law protection, as evidenced by a wave of federal subpoenas that have threatened to (and in some cases actually have) put reporters behind bars.

John F. Sturm, President and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, issued the following statement on behalf of the media coalition:

"We applaud the dedication of all the lawmakers who supported this measure, particularly its champions, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). We also appreciate the support of long-time shield advocates, Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT). With the passage of S. 2035 and a similar bill in the House Judiciary Committee, we look forward to a floor vote in both chambers of Congress this year.

"While news organizations and journalists always prefer -- and strive -- to have their sources on-the-record whenever possible, there are times when sources will not come forward without the promise of confidentiality. Critical stories bringing forward important information to the American public, such as the Enron scandal, the conditions at the Walter Reed Medical Center, and Iraqi prisoner abuse, were made possible by confidential sources.

"The Free Flow of Information Act of 2007 addresses law enforcement and national security concerns while protecting the free flow of information. By enacting a federal shield law, the Congress can ensure that all parties -- journalists, sources, prosecutors, civil litigants and courts alike -- can rely on consistent and well-articulated standards of procedure."

This coalition of media companies and organizations urges Congress to act swiftly in passing the Free Flow of Information Act.

For more information about the legislation, please visit http://www.naa.org/Public-Policy.aspx.

Contact Information