SOURCE: Society of Professional Journalists

October 04, 2007 18:07 ET

Sen. Cornyn Urges Journalists to Help in Passing a Strong Federal Shield Law

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - October 4, 2007) - Hours after voting in favor of a federal shield law Thursday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) shared his views on the proposed legislation with about 200 journalists attending the 2007 SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference.

Cornyn, a longtime supporter of open-records legislation, urged journalists to work to help lawmakers pass a strong, fair shield law. Namely, Cornyn asked for aid in the area of defining exactly who is a journalist -- something many in the media aren't comfortable doing.

"What I hope to convince you of is why we need to continue to work together for a federal shield law," Cornyn told the crowd during his 45-minute speech. "I would ask you to continue to work with us to find a solution to this problem."

The bill, called the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007, would protect the public's right to speak out and promote the people's right to know by making it easier for journalists to protect the identities of their confidential sources.

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.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier in the day, Cornyn joined 13 others in passing the measure. Three voted against. The vote (originally 15-2 before a vote was changed) sends the legislation to the Senate floor, where it is expected to face more challenges. A similar measure also awaits floor action in the House.

"The Federal Media Shield Bill is a crucial step for champions of the First Amendment and a free press to ensure that journalists will not be jailed by the government for doing their jobs," SPJ National President-Elect Clint Brewer said. "Today's vote demonstrated real progress in the fight to allow journalists to protect the identities of their confidential sources. The Society of Professional Journalists urges journalists and free speech proponents across this country to get involved, act and communicate with their legislators to let them know a free press is a requirement for a healthy democracy."

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.

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