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SPJ leaders appalled by Pennsylvania court action

For Immediate Release

For Immediate Release:
June 13, 2008

Clint Brewer, President, (615) 668-4535
Alyson Ahrns, Archibald Communications Intern (317) 927-8000, ext. 210

INDIANAPOLIS — Leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists were appalled to learn Thursday that a Pennsylvania court issued subpoenas to 15 reporters in an effort to uncover a confidential source. The source reportedly leaked confidential information from a grand jury hearing.

The reporters were ordered to appear before Dauphin County Judge Todd A. Hoover on June 30. They are being asked to produce notes, e-mail, work phone records and other documents relating to stories about the grand jury.

“This behavior by the courts is the exact reason states such as Pennsylvania have shield laws,” SPJ President Clint Brewer said. “These types of actions against reporters prevent journalists from doing their jobs to their greatest ability. More importantly, being forced to reveal confidential sources could prevent others from coming forward in the future.”

Those subpoenaed include reporters from The Morning Call, The Associated Press, the Citizens’ Voice of Wilkes-Barre, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News.

According to a story by The Morning Call, lawyers for Scranton-area businessman Louis DeNaples requested the subpoenas, which are said to be in response to stories the subpoenaed reporters ran about the grand jury case that resulted in perjury charges against DeNaples.

Teri Henning, general counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, said Pennsylvania’s state shield law has historically provided absolute protection for newspaper reporters in cases such as this where confidentiality is involved.

SPJ, the nation’s most broad-based journalism-advocacy organization, has lobbied for the passage of a federal shield law with a campaign to raise awareness about the need for this law. To learn more about SPJ’s efforts, visit http://www.spj.org/shieldlaw.asp.

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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