Media Shields Up!

More

While the stimulus debate consumes all attention, a bill to enhance journalists' rights has been introduced in Congress. A federal shield law to usually prevent journalists from having to divulge confidential sources was brought back to the House of Representatives on Thursday. The Free Flow of Information Act would create a shield law applicable in federal cases, like that of Judith Miller's in 2005. State shield laws do not apply in federal cases.

The bill was passed the House last year but failed to be picked up by the Senate. Even had it passed, President Bush said he would have vetoed the law that requires the government to demonstrate a "preponderance" of evidence to compel journalists to testify or produce documents. Then-attorney general Michael Mukasey argued that the law set the bar too high for federal prosecutors investigating illegal leaks of classified information.

However, the Obama administration seems more inclined to support the bill. Obama co-sponsored the failed Senate bill last year and Attorney General Holder said he's in favor of a shield law during his confirmation hearing.

It's not entirely clear whether bloggers would be covered by the law. The law protects those who are journalists, defined as those who gather, prepare, collect, photograph, read, write, edit, report or publish news for their "livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person."

The prosecution of a journalist in federal court isn't hypothetical: this week a Detroit Free Press reporter was threatened with contempt of court by a U.S. District judge for not revealing confidential sources within the Justice Department. A former federal prosecutor is suing DoJ for illegally leaking the fact he was under internal investigation. Reporter David Ashenfelter could face fines of $5,000 per day if he continues to hold out.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Justin Miller was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 to 2011. He is now the homepage editor at New York magazine. More

Justin Miller was a associate editor at The Atlantic. Previously he was an assistant editor at RealClearPolitics, a political reporter in Ohio, and a freelance journalist.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In