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Home > SPJ News > SPJ continues fight for federal shield law

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SPJ continues fight for federal shield law


10/5/2010



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For Immediate Release:

Contacts:
Kevin Smith, SPJ President, (304) 365-4864, ksmith@spj.org
Andrew M. Scott, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 215, ascott@spj.org

LAS VEGAS - The Society of Professional Journalists is continuing to fight for passage of S. 448, the Free Flow of Information Act.

SPJ leaders discussed the importance of passing the legislation, known as the federal shield law, during a panel presentation at the Society’s 2010 Convention & National Journalism Conference.

The bill would provide a margin of protection for journalists and their confidential sources. It would limit the enforcement of federal subpoenas against reporters who refuse to identify sources in certain circumstances. The measure passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in December 2009 after 19 weeks of bipartisan amendments and awaits a full Senate vote.

“It’s apparent to members of SPJ that if we are to continue to provide the kinds of stories that the American public needs that we need passage of this bill to protect sources, journalists and the public’s interest,” SPJ President Kevin Smith said.

According to Smith, the bill has progressed further throughout this year than the past five years, and all issues of national security have been addressed completely.

The bill was stalled after the July 25 WikiLeaks publication of nearly 77,000 Afghanistan war documents. As a result, Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has called for two tiers to define a journalist, further limiting the bill’s protections. Panelists during the session believe that if the bill does not pass before December, its progress will be hindered up to five more years.

Smith visited Washington, D.C. last week to push for passage of S. 448. He delivered letters to key senators, urging them to allow a final vote on the bill.

According to research by session speaker RonNell Anderson Jones, Brigham Young University associate professor of law, over 7,000 state and federal subpoenas were issued to journalists in the past year.

Other speakers during the session included past SPJ presidents Irwin Gratz, morning edition producer at Maine Public Broadcasting Network, and Steve Geimann, deputy team leader at Bloomberg News.

SPJ is a leader among dozens of media groups and journalism organizations fighting for this legislation. See SPJ’s shield law page here.

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, please visit www.spj.org.

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