SPJ encouraged after Shield Law passes House, shifts focus to less-certain Senate
For Immediate Release:
Dave Aeikens, SPJ President, (320) 255-8744,
Scott Leadingham, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 211,
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is encouraged by yesterday’s U.S. House vote approving H.R. 985, the Free Flow of Information Act. The legislation now awaits action in the Senate, where it stalled last year.
Known as the federal Shield Law, the measure would grant legal protections to journalists who refuse to reveal their confidential sources or notes. So far, 49 states have legislative, administrative or common law protections. There are no such protections at the federal level.
“Today’s vote is fantastic news,” SPJ President Dave Aeikens said. “It’s reassuring that so many legislators recognize the importance of protecting information in the public interest. We are ready for the next step - getting the Senate to pass the bill and encouraging the Obama administration to continue its pledged support.”
While campaigning, President Obama voiced support for the bill, eventually becoming a co-sponsor of the Senate version.
Obama administration officials have already shown support for such a law. Attorney General Eric Holder, in his confirmation hearing, indicated he did not hold the same view as former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who recommended President Bush veto the bill if passed by Congress.
As the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, SPJ has been among a group of media organizations fighting to enact this vitally important legislation that will ensure reporting in the public interest is not stymied by journalists fearing prosecution.
The effort to enact a federal shield law has been ongoing since 2005. The most recent bill, H.R. 985, was introduced in February. Although the bill previously passed the House last year by a wide margin, efforts ultimately stalled in the Senate.
“This bill is critical to allow people who feel they need to expose wrongdoing to share information with a reporter without fear that they will be punished for doing the right thing,” Aeikens said.
In 2008, the bill failed to get the 60 votes needed to force a vote on the Senate floor despite some bipartisan support.
Along with SPJ, a number of other organizations have joined the shield law effort, including the Newspaper Association of America, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Radio and Television News Directors Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors, among others. Learn more about SPJ’s efforts by clicking here.
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 www.spj.org.