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SPJ signs onto letter to ask Senate to bring shield law to floor



David Cuillier, SPJ National President, 520.248.6242,
Taylor Carlier, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317.920.4785,

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is urging lawmakers to bring the Free Flow of Information Act to the Senate floor for a discussion and vote.

On Wednesday, SPJ joined 72 other journalism and media organizations in sending a letter to Senate leaders expressing the urgency for a federal shield law.

Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have statutory or common law protection for journalists and their confidential sources in place, but there is no equivalent federal protection. The Free Flow of Information Act, otherwise known as the federal shield law, would create a qualified reporter’s privilege that would apply in the federal courts.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bipartisan bill in September, but it has yet to be brought to the floor for debate.

The case of New York Times reporter James Risen has underscored the need for reporter protection at the federal level. Risen was subpoenaed by the government to testify in the prosecution of an ex-CIA agent and was ordered to testify by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused his appeal. Risen now faces the choice of revealing confidential sources or possibly going to jail for refusing to testify.

The letter sent to Senate leadership by the Newspaper Association of America on behalf of the media coalition states: “Journalists work hard every day to give life to the promise of the First Amendment. The ability to protect confidential sources is the oxygen that investigative reporting needs to survive. Without it, journalists cannot provide the public they serve with the spirited, independent journalism that is the lifeblood of American debate and democracy.”

SPJ has been a longtime proponent of a federal shield law. To learn more about the organization’s efforts, as well as the law itself, please visit You can also use the resources on the web page to contact your senators by telephone and encourage them to support our nation’s journalists.

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


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