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SPJ leaders pleased with Sen. John McCain’s support of a federal shield law

For Immediate Release:

Clint Brewer, President, (615) 668-4535
Beth King, Communications Manager, (317) 927-8000, ext. 211

INDIANAPOLIS – Leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists today welcomed Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain’s support of S. 2035, the Free Flow of Information Act.

McCain said Monday that he had some reservations about supporting a media shield bill. But despite those reservations, would pledge his commitment. McCain spoke during the Associated Press Annual Meeting in Washington.

“I’m willing to invest in the press a very solemn trust that in the use of confidential sources, you will not do more harm than good, whether it comes to the security of the nation or the reputation of good people,” McCain said. “And I would hope that when you do something controversial or something that many people find wrong and harmful you would explain fully and honestly how and why you did it, and confess your mistakes, if you made them, in a more noticeable way than afforded by the small print on a corrections page.”

Known as the media shield bill, S. 2035 calls for a qualified, rather than absolute privilege that would make it easier for journalists to protect the identities of their confidential sources. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed S. 2035 on Oct. 4. By a vote of 398-21 on Oct. 16, the House passed its version of the bill, H.R. 2102 that was introduced by Reps. Rick Boucher, (D-Va.) and Mike Pence, (R-Ind.). With bi-partisan support, the bill has progressed further than any shield bill to date. As drafted, the shield may apply not only to traditional print, television and radio journalists, but also may include coverage for freelancers and bloggers.

Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have various statutes that protect journalists from being forced to testify or disclose sources and information. No statutory protection currently exists for federal cases.

“Sen. McCain’s support for a federal shield law is welcomed news,” SPJ President Clint Brewer said. “At a time when overzealous prosecutors are attempting to use national security as an excuse to force journalists into acting as an arm of the law, it’s good to know that a presidential hopeful understands that the responsibility of the press is to keep a watchful eye on government.”

SPJ launched its campaign for a federal shield law in 2006. To learn more about SPJ’s efforts, please visit SPJ’s shield law page . To show support for a federal shield law, SPJ leaders are encouraging journalists and public citizens to contact members of the U.S. Senate. To locate a list of U.S. Senate members, visit Senate.gov.

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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