Senate Tweaking Shield Bill In Wake of Wikileaks
Law raises concerns about protection of online newsgathering
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/5/2010 10:56:37 AM
The bill has had a dicey trip through Congress, held up at one point by administration concerns about national security. Now, the Wikileaks leak has raised new concerns about its protection of online newsgathering among those already concerned about how online journalism is and should be treated.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is reportedly working on an amendment to make it clear that the new shield law would not protect a site like Wikileaks, which is essentially a repository for collective leaks and commentary on them.
A source working with a coalition of media groups trying to get the bill passed after decades and by some accounts almost 100 tries, said they are working hard to help come up with "belts and suspenders" language that would make it crystal clear that the bill does not apply, though Schumer told the New York Times that the bill even as it stands would "never grant protection to a Web site like this one." But he added that he would take the extra step to remove "even a scintilla of doubt."
The bill protects journalists and their sources from prosecutorial overreach, and would be a federal protection mirroring laws or legal precedent in virtually every state. A version has already passed the House, but the Senate version is different and will be even more so if it is amended again. That means the bills will have to be reconciled or the House will need to revote the Senate version.
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