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SPJ urges President-elect Obama to continue support for media shield law


For Immediate Release:

Dave Aeikens, SPJ President, (320) 255-8744,
Scott Leadingham, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 211, sleadingham@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s most broad-based journalism-advocacy organization, encourages President-elect Barack Obama to make good on a campaign promise to support a bill that would protect journalists and their confidential sources.

The Free Flow of Information Act, informally known as the Federal Shield Law, would protect journalists who choose not to reveal their confidential sources, even when compelled by court action. A notable exception is when such information compromises national security. While campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in April, Obama said during the annual meeting of the Associated Press that he supported the proposed legislation. He became a cosponsor of S. 2035, the bill’s number in the Senate, on April 14, 2008. Links to several news articles that highlight Obama’s support are included at the end of this release.

“We call on the President-elect to make good on his campaign comments that he will continue to support the passage of a federal shield law,” SPJ President Dave Aeikens said. “This is a critical piece of legislation to continue to assure the flow of information.”

The legislation passed in the House of Representatives by an overwhelming bipartisan margin but it stalled in the Senate in late July when it failed to receive the 60 votes required to end debate and force a final vote. Most recently, the bill could have been voted upon during the current “lame duck” session of Congress, but senators chose to postpone further consideration until at least January, when the next session of Congress begins.

SPJ wants the newly elected president and the 111th Congress to re-examine the critical nature of the law in 2009. Even if the shield law had passed the Senate during the summer, the Bush administration stood as a formidable opponent. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and other top White House advisors recommended President Bush veto the bill if passed. SPJ is hoping Obama will work closely with the new Congress to enact the important law pertaining to essential press freedoms.

“It’s time to stop the threat of jail or fines for reporters who are simply doing their jobs, providing a link in democracy between government and the citizens,” said Aeikens.

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.

Article Links:
USA Today article
New York Times article
Broadcasting & Cable update


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