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SPJ to Congress: Delay on shield law hurts the American public


For Immediate Release:

Kevin Smith, SPJ President, (304) 365-4864,
Andrew M. Scott, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 215, ascott@spj.org

The Society of Professional Journalists is again urging the U.S. Senate to press forward with a full vote on S. 448, the Free Flow of Information Act, and pass this important piece of federal shield legislation before the end of the year.

The bill would provide a margin of protection for journalists and their sources. It would prohibit the enforcement of federal subpoenas against reporters who refuse to identify their confidential sources in certain circumstances. The measure passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in December 2009 after 19 weeks of bipartisan amendments.

Delays in passing S. 448 continue to place U.S. journalists at risk of heavy civil fines and imprisonment. That leads to reluctance to investigate stories and ultimately is a disservice to the American public and an open, democratic society.

SPJ is among more than 70 media outlets and journalism organizations advocating for the legislation. See SPJ’s shield law page for more on the effort, which has been ongoing since 2006.

“We are rapidly closing in on the end of this congressional session, and we remind the senators that U.S. journalists have an expectation that this bill will be resolved,” SPJ President Kevin Z. Smith said. “After years of advocacy for this bill, we are close to a resolution, and we have hammered out what should be the last points of contention. We strongly encourage senators to allow a vote.”

In July, Smith wrote an editorial on the importance of passing the bill. It was published by numerous outlets nationwide. Read it here.

“Delaying or killing this bill isn’t just a blow to journalists covering the federal government; it’s a blow to the American people who will see fewer stories about their government,” Smith said “Unprotected sources don’t generally share information with the media. Killing this bill is a win for secrecy in government.”

The bill as drafted would provide qualified protection for journalists, who may still be ordered to reveal information pursuant to a court order in limited circumstances including when the information involved concerns national security.

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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