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This committee is the watchdog of press freedoms across the nation. It relies upon a network of volunteers in each state organized under Project Sunshine. These SPJ members are on the front lines for assaults to the First Amendment and when lawmakers attempt to restrict the public's access to documents and the government's business. The committee often is called upon to intervene in instances where the media is restricted.

Home > Freedom of Information > Struggling to Report: Federal Shield Law > Sample Letter

Sample Email and Talking Points

When crafting your message to your two senators, we encourage you to be brief and communicate in your own words. Below we have some suggestions for key points, a sample email, and possible messages to send out on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. Join together to raise the shield!


Key points

1. The recent spying on Associated Press reporters demonstrates the need for a check on executive agencies.
2. A federal shield law provides judicial review to prevent unrestrained power of executive agencies to snoop on reporters’ sources, including members of Congress.
3. A shield law would not hide terrorists or threaten national security. It’s a qualified privilege for journalists, not absolute.
4. We can reach agreement on the finer points of the law — to agree on something that makes sense — just like we’ve done in 49 states and in D.C.


Sample email

Dear Sen. Jones:

I am writing to you today to urge your support of a federal shield law, the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013 (S. 987), passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee last fall and soon to be pending on the Senate floor.
As a journalist and a registered voter, I believe it is critical that we enact a federal shield law now to protect journalists’ confidential sources and the public’s right to hold its government accountable. While 49 states and the District of Columbia currently have some sort of shield protections, such a law does not exist at the federal level and its absence jeopardizes the ability of the press to expose problems in society.

A shield law protects checks and balances, as well, providing independent oversight on executive action by requiring judiciary opinions on subpoenas. We cannot allow one branch of government unrestrained, unchecked power. Last year, The Associated Press had no notice of the DOJ’s records demand and did not have the opportunity to challenge it in court. As a result, the subpoena was so broad in scope that the DOJ obtained information that had nothing to do with the leaks in question, including reporters’ interviews with members of Congress.

Journalists aren’t looking for a free pass, nor is that the purpose of a federal shield law. Instead, the Free Flow of Information Act provides a qualified privilege for us to protect confidential sources, so that whistleblowers will continue to come forward. Without such a law, the sources that help hold the government accountable will stop talking. We can reach agreement on the finer points of the law to balance the rights of journalists with the nation’s needs, such as protecting national security.

Ultimately, journalists must be allowed to do their jobs without fear of being forced to disclose confidential sources; and we must protect the public’s right to know. Please help us bring this very important issue to the forefront of Congress by showing your support of the federal shield law today.

Sincerely,

Jane Doe
Affiliation
City, State


Sample social media posts

The federal shield law bill, Free Flow of Information Act of 2013, S. 987, passed thru U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Learn more: http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

The federal shield law bill, Free Flow of Information Act of 2013, S. 987, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

The Free Flow of Information Act would preserve the public’s right to know by protecting journalists’ confidential sources. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

The federal shield law would preserve the public's right to know by protecting journalists' confidential sources. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Federal shield law language defines “covered journalist” in broad terms. http://tinyurl.com/m3es8a3

4 out of 5 media law experts say “Yes” to a federal shield law http://tinyurl.com/kxu3gxj #spjshield

Journalists rely on confidential sources for investigative reporting. Help protect that right; support a federal shield law. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Journalists rely on confidential sources for investigative reporting. Protect that right; back a federal shield law. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

The public relies on confidential sources to shed light on government wrongdoing. Help protect that right; support a federal shield law. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Confidential sources help shed light on government wrongdoing. Protect that right; support a federal shield law. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

A federal shield law would ensure democracy & the public’s right to know. Help SPJ get it passed. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp #spjshield

A federal shield law would ensure democracy and the public’s right to know. Help SPJ get it passed. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp #spjshield

Hundreds of journalists are targeted every year with federal subpoenas, keeping the public in the dark. A federal shield law would provide accountability, preserving your right to know. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

100s of journalists targeted every year with federal subpoenas. A federal shield law would provide accountability. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Show your support for a federal shield law by contacting your U.S. senators and representatives today! http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

A federal shield law protects journalists and their confidential sources and YOUR right to know what your government is up to. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

A federal shield law protects journalists and confidential sources and YOUR right to know what government is up to. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Protection of the public’s right to know is a nonpartisan issue. Encourage your legislators to vote “yes” to a federal shield law. #spjshield http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Protection of the public's right to know is a nonpartisan issue. Ask senators to vote "yes" to a federal shield law. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

The administration says it supports government transparency. Make them show it with a federal shield law. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

The Free Flow of Information Act has had strong bipartisan support in the past. Encourage it to continue — contact your legislators today.

The federal shield bill proposes reasonable ground rules for when a journalist can be compelled to testify re confidential sources. #spjshield

The federal shield bill proposes reasonable rules for when a journalist can be compelled to testify re confidential sources. #spjshield

49 states and the District of Columbia provide protection for a journalist’s confidential sources. Our federal government does not. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp #spjshield

49 states and DC provide protection for a journalist's confidential sources, but the feds do not. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp #spjshield

Learn how a federal shield law bill will support democracy and government transparency and protect the public’s right to know. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp #spjshield

Learn how a federal shield law bill will support democracy and transparency and protect the public's right to know. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

A federal shield law would not give a free pass to the press or its sources, but establish a qualified (not absolute) privilege. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

A federal shield law would not give a free pass to the press or its sources, but establish a qualified privilege. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

There is no uniformity to conflicting federal court opinions on when confidential sources can be protected. Let’s change that. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Federal court opinions on when confidential sources can be protected are in conflict. Let's change that. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Without a federal shield law, government whistleblowers are reluctant to come forward. Protect YOUR right to know. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Support SPJ’s fight for a federal shield law to protect confidential sources. Contact your legislators today to show your support. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Support SPJ's fight for a federal shield law to protect confidential sources. Contact your senators today. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Protecting the public’s right to know is everyone’s responsibility. Support a federal shield law. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Learn more about the proposed federal shield — Free Flow of Information Act — to protect journalists’ confidential sources. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Learn more about the proposed federal shield law, which will protect journalists' confidential sources. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

A federal shield law would require a judicial hearing before confidential source info. could be subpoenaed from a journalist. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

A federal shield law would require a judicial hearing before a journalist could be subpoenaed re sources. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Fight for the public’s right to know. Contact your legislators to support a federal shield law today. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

National security will not be harmed by a federal shield law. #spjshield. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Journalist Josh Wolf spent 226 days in jail to protect his raw video footage from confiscation. Stop the injustice; pass a federal shield law. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Journalist Josh Wolf spent 226 days in jail to protect his raw video footage from confiscation. Stop the injustice. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Federal judges have attempted to personally bankrupt journalists who refuse to reveal sources, including Toni Locy, formerly of USA Today. http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=4823142&page=1

Federal judges have attempted to personally bankrupt journalists who refuse to reveal sources, including Toni Locy. http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=4823142

Patch reporter Joe Hosey could be fined up to $3,000 a day for not revealing his sources. http://tinyurl.com/la85c2u

Do you want to know who the federal government is spying on? Help pass a federal shield law to preserve your right to know. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

Want to know who the federal government is spying on? Help pass a federal shield law to preserve your right to know. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

With a federal shield law, the onus is on the govt to prove why it needs protected information from a news org. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp #spjshield

With a federal shield law, the onus is on the govt to prove why it needs protected information from a news org. http://spj.org/shieldlaw.asp

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