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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

Rise Up for Risen! Raise the Shield!

Forty eight states (Wyoming and Hawaii excepted) and the District of Columbia provide journalists with a “reporter’s privilege,” protecting them if a state government seeks to make him or her reveal confidential information, including the identity of a source. Some states have statutes, known as “shield laws,” and some provide the protection through case law.

But, there is no federal law to protect journalists from revealing their confidential sources, as exemplified in the recent case of James Risen, a New York Times journalist.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has backed a federal judge ordering Risen to testify in a criminal prosecution. On June 2, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Risen’s appeal, which leaves him in the unenviable position of potentially revealing confidential sources ... or going to jail.

A reporter doing his job never should have to face that choice. The Society of Professional Journalists is urging the Senate leadership to bring the Free Flow of Information Act the proposed federal shield law, to the Senate floor for a discussion and vote.

Risen wrote a book in 2006 about the CIA’s failed effort to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. The government is prosecuting a CIA officer as a result to Risen’s reporting, and it wants Risen to testify about his confidential sources.

The case highlights the critical need for a federal shield law protecting reporters and their sources from unwarranted government coercion. The proposed Free Flow of Information Act (S. 987) would provide this protection to reporters, and their sources, from the federal government in federal courts. It was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2013 but is pending in the Senate.

Last year, the Justice Department seized phone records from Associated Press reporters and called a Fox News reporter “an unindicted co-conspirator” just for doing his job. Now, the government wants to put the squeeze on Risen.

Clearly federal protection is needed.

Half of the Senate — a group including both Democrats and Republicans — is ready to debate the measure. The Senate leadership says it needs to see 10 more senators in favor.

Let’s show them it’s time to rise up and raise the shield in order to protect reporters and their sources and to defend the American public and democracy.

Here is a list of those senators who are undecided. Please contact them today, and let us know you did!

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4944
State phone: (615) 736-5129

Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-3324
State phone: (603) 622-7979

John Barrasso (R-WY)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-6441
State phone: (307) 261-6413

John Boozman (R-AR)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4843
State phone: (479) 725-0400

Richard Burr (R-NC)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-3154
State phone: (800) 685-8916

Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-3521
State phone: (770) 763-9090

Daniel Coats (R-IN)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-5623
State phone: (317) 554-0750

Tom Coburn (R-OK)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-5754
State phone: (918) 581-7651

Thad Cochran (R-MS)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-5054
State phone: (601) 965-4649

Ted Cruz (R-TX)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-5922
State phone: (512) 916-5834

Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4814
State phone: (574) 288-2780

Michael B. Enzi (R-WY)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-3424
State phone: (307) 682-6268

Deb Fischer (R-NE)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-6551
State phone: (402) 391-3411

Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4521
State phone: (480) 833-0092

Dean Heller (R-NV)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-6244
State phone: (702) 388-6605

John Hoeven (R-ND)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-2551
State phone: (701) 250-4618

James M. Inhofe (R-OK)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4721
State phone: (918) 748-5111

Ron Johnson (R-WI)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-5323
State phone: (414) 276-7282

Mark Kirk (R-IL)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-2854
State phone: (312) 886-3506

John McCain (R-AZ)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-2235
State phone: (602) 952-2410

Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-6665
State phone: (907) 271-3735

Bill Nelson (D-FL)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-5274
State phone: (888) 671-4091

Rand Paul (R-KY)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4343
State phone: (270) 782-8303

Rob Portman (R-OH)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-3353
State phone: (614) 469-6774

James E. Risch (R-ID)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-2752
State phone: (208) 342-7985

Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4124
State phone: (334) 244-7017

Richard C. Shelby (R-AL)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-5744
State phone: (205) 759-5047

Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4254
State phone: (215) 241-1090

Mark Udall (D-CO)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-5941
State phone: (303) 650-7820

David Vitter (R-LA)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4623
State phone: (337) 262-6898

Roger F. Wicker (R-MS)
D.C. Phone: (202) 224-6253
State phone: (601) 965-4644

Help us raise the shield!

1. Contact your senators by phone. Use the contact information above or to help you get started, and consult these talking points for guidance.

2. Report in. Let us know when you contact your senators by using this form, or email with the details.

3. Spread the word! Get others to email. Tweet about it. (Get suggestions here.) Write editorials. Cover the story. Check back.

Talk about it. Write about it. Editorialize about it.

Here are the facts about the bill and arguments in favor of the shield law.

Here is a list of U.S. Senators and their contact info. You can find your two senators there.

Here are some sample email messages and letters to send to your senators, asking for their support for this important bill.

Watch this page for more news and information as the federal shield law moves through Congress.

It’s time to raise the shield. Now!

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