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SPJ leaders pleased with Democratic hopefuls’ support of a federal shield law

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 today welcomed additional support of S. 2035, the Free Flow of Information Act, from Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Following a pledge Monday from Sen. John McCain to support the media shield bill, Sens. Clinton and Obama publicly offered their support Tuesday to the bill that would protect the public’s right to speak out and promote the people’s right to know.

Both Sen.’s Clinton and Obama have co-sponsored the Senate version of the Free Flow of Information Act. In his speech Monday, Sen. Obama said it may be necessary “to ramp up surveillance in order to prevent a terrorist attack.” However, he acknowledged the need to have media watchdogs present to prevent the abuse of civil liberties. In her speech Tuesday, Sen. Clinton pledged her support of the media shield law while emphasizing the need for open government to promote transparency.

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.

“Having bi-partisan support of all three presidential hopefuls is an indication that freedom of the press is alive and well, especially at a time when national security is being used by the Bush Administration to stifle a bill that would protect the rights of all citizens,” SPJ President Clint Brewer said. “This key support is critical to journalists because it is one step closer toward ensuring a truly free press.”

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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