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)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities


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

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In