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Rise Up for Risen! Raise the Shield!
Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia provide journalists with a reporters 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 Risens 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.
Shield law: Get up
H.R.1962 Free Flow of Information Act of 2013
S.987 A bill to maintain the free flow of information to the public by providing conditions for the federally compelled disclosure of information by certain persons connected with the news media
Amended language for S.987 [Sept. 12, 2013]
Arguments in favor of the shield law
Shield law FAQ
History: The struggle since 2006
Journalism groups backing a federal shield
RCFP guide to state shield laws [RCFP.org]
How you can help
Sample email messages and letters
Contact info for U.S. Senators
In the news
Covered Journalists: Federal shield law language a good compromise
Freedom of the Prez: On shame and shield law
62 Civil Liberties, Press Freedom and Public Interest Groups Demand Answers on Targeting of Journalists
Protect reporters, and protect everyone
Counterpoint: Media deserve guarantee of federal shield law
FOI FYI Blog: Shield law posts
Risen wrote a book in 2006 about the CIAs failed effort to disrupt Irans nuclear program. The government is prosecuting a CIA officer as a result to Risens 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.
Lets show them its 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!
2. Report in. Let us know when you contact your senators by using this form, or email email@example.com 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.
Its time to raise the shield. Now!