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SPJ leaders praise adoption of Utah shield rule

For Immediate Release:

Clint Brewer, President, (615) 301-9229
Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927-8000, ext. 211

INDIANAPOLIS – Leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists praised the Utah Supreme Court for passing Rule 0509, the state reporter shield rule, one day after the public comment period ended.

“Freedom of the press is alive and well in Utah,” SPJ National President Clint Brewer said. “Utah now joins the majority of states that have some form of shield provision for journalists. This is an important victory for Utah journalists that was achieved through the hard work of local SPJ members.”

The rule which will become effective immediately, is expected to be signed tomorrow by Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine M. Durham. It applies to publishers, editors, reporters or other similar persons gathering information for the primary purpose of disseminating news to the public and any newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, press association or wire service, radio station, television station, satellite broadcast, cable system or other organization with whom that person is connected. It strikes an appropriate balance between necessary protection to ensure the free flow of information and recognition that sometimes the privilege may be overridden, in cases of substantial injury or death. The rule was drafted in November and news organizations from across the state worked together to pass the rule. Free press advocates, including Brewer submitted public comments in support of the rule.

“All of our hard work has paid off in huge dividends,” said Ben Winslow, president of the Utah Headliner’s Club. “The rule was passed with considerable thought and dialogue between advocates for the public, the courts, the law and law enforcement. It is not an absolute privilege, but will ensure proper protections on all sides. This rule will keep with the spirit of a free flow of information in our society.”

In October, the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, by a vote of 15-2, passed a federal shield law that would help journalists protect the identities of their confidential sources. It was introduced with bipartisan support by Sen.’s Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have various statutes that protect journalists from being forced to testify or disclose sources and information. In the last year, The Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s most broad-based journalism-advocacy organization, has raised more than $30,000 to support a campaign for the passage of a federal shield law. The work to ensure passage of such a law is ongoing.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists 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 further information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.


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