Friday, October 5, 2007

Senate Judiciary Committee Clears Shield Bill

Friday, October 05, 2007

A federal reporter’s shield bill will be headed to the Senate floor for a vote, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported yesterday. Calling the vote ‘historic,’ RCFP executive director Lucy Dalglish said, “The overwhelming vote in favor of the bill demonstrates that reporters have made the case for legally protecting sources.” The bill would provide legal protections for reporters who find themselves subpoenaed to testify or produce documents in a federal court proceeding.

On Thursday, bill S. 2035 was approved by a vote of 15-2 to go to the Senate floor. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said that while journalists report sensitive and important information from sources who need protection, it was time for the law to recognize the valuable role they play in democracy. The bill provides a qualified privilege that can be overcome if “all reasonable alternative sources” of the testimony or documents have been exhausted, the information is essential to a case, and that “nondisclosure of the information would be contrary to the public interest.”

Critics, including the Bush administration, contend that even with the national security exception this bill would impair the government’s ability to discover leaks that pose a risk to national security.

The text of the bill (before the addition of amendments from yesterday’s markup hearing) can be found at:

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