SOURCE: Society of Professional Journalists

October 05, 2007 15:47 ET

Panel Debates Need for Federal Shield Law That Would Protect Journalists, Sources

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - October 5, 2007) - Since 1984, 17 U.S. journalists have been incarcerated for failing to hand over information to the courts. One of them was Jim Taricani, a reporter at WJAR who was held in contempt for refusing to name a confidential source.

On Friday, Taricani, along with Randall Eliason, a professor from American University; Eve Burton, general counsel for Hearst Corp; and Bruce Sanford, an attorney for Baker Hostetler; debated the need for a federal law. The session, which was moderated by Mike Walter of WUSA, took place during the 2007 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference.

"When you are an investigative reporter... you're going to come across a story that needs confidential sources," Taricani said. "And when you are facing jail time, it's so daunting.

"Journalists in American shouldn't face jail time for simply doing their jobs. They simply shouldn't," he said.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, proposed shield law legislation was passed by a 14-3 vote. The measure now moves to the Senate floor, where it is expected to face more challenges. A similar measure also awaits floor action in the House.

In the past year, The Society of Professional Journalists, the nation's most broad-based journalism-advocacy organization, has raised more than $30,000 to support a campaign for the passage of a federal shield law. To learn more about the proposed legislation, and SPJ's involvement, visit http://www.spj.org/shieldlaw.asp.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ 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 more information about SPJ, visit www.spj.org.

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