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SPJ is outraged by Obama administration changes to shield law bill


For immediate release

Kevin Z. Smith, SPJ President, 304-367-4864,
Karen Grabowski, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-927-8000 ext. 215, kgrabowski@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – Leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists are outraged that the Obama administration has reversed course and is now proposing changes that essentially render useless S. 448, more commonly known as the Free Flow of Information Act. If implemented, the administration’s changes would weaken the proposed shield law and offer little to no protection for reporters who refuse to disclose confidential sources.

SPJ strongly encourages the administration to reconsider its position and focus on the importance of a federal shield law and how vital it is to the existence of a free press and an informed citizenry. SPJ also encourages all journalists to support the legislation by continuing to contact lawmakers and voice their support for a strong and meaningful federal shield law. The Society applauds the efforts of the senators who support S. 448 and the protections for journalists and urges them to continue the battle.

“Not long ago, President Obama was a key supporter of this bill, but after one meeting with his national security team he appears to have been scared into making this poor decision,” SPJ President Kevin Smith said.

According to The New York Times, the proposed changes came after President Obama met with top members of his national security team, including Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., FBI Director Robert Mueller and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The latest stance is an about face to the support the administration gave early in the process. It also comes in direct opposition to the promises President Obama made regarding a federal shield law during his campaign and his previous actions as a senator.

“President Obama was elected by the people, for the people. It’s time for him to stand up and support legislation that gives those people the power to have better oversight of their government,” Smith said.

While campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in April 2008, Obama said during the annual meeting of the Associated Press that he supported the proposed legislation, the Free Flow of Information Act. He also became a cosponsor of S. 2035, the bill’s number in the Senate at the time, on April 14, 2008. Click here for links to the articles that reported President Obama’s comments supporting a federal shield law.

SPJ leaders will hold President Obama to his promise and continue to push for a federal shield law that protects journalists and their confidential sources while also protecting national security. SPJ will continue to fight for the federal shield law, as it has done for years, until a law is enacted. Read the letter former SPJ President Dave Aeikens sent to President Obama January 13, 2009, asking him to follow through on his promise.

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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