RTDNA Musters the Troops For Shield Law

Urges members to contact legislators now, before close of Senate session

The Radio-Television Digital News Association is calling on its
members to contact their legislators to push for passage of a federal shield
law.

After much negotiation with Republicans and the Obama
administration, bill backers secured passage of the Free Flow of Information
Act in the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee, but it has yet to get a
vote in the Senate and time is flying.

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.

"The federal shield law would protect journalists from having
to reveal their confidential sources and documents, and would ensure that
information vital to an informed citizenry will not be silenced or otherwise
withheld because of the threat of federal prosecution or subpoena,"
said RTDNA in a call to members Wednesday.
"Essentially, the shield law would prohibit prosecutors from forcing a
journalist to reveal a source when a court determines that the need for the
source's identity is outweighed by the public's interest in the free flow of
information."

RTDNA says the time to act is now if the bill is to be passed
before the close of this session. It lists key senators and asks members to
contact them "today" (July 28) and ask them to vote for cloture on
the bill, which would end debate and allow it to be brought to the floor. That
would take 60 votes, rather than a simple majority.

In addition, it wants members to write editorials, send letters
and get face time with Congress folk over the August recess.

Among the suggested talking points: 1) The bill is supported by
over 70 media companies; the law would provide "robust protection"
for national security (one of the Obama administration's concerns about the
bill); 2) "The bill contains extremely broad exceptions when the
government seeks information that could thwart a terrorist attack or otherwise
prevent harm to national security," RTDNA says; 3) "Republicans
and Democrats alike recognize the importance of a vibrant, free press in our
democratic society."

Journalist
groups have been trying for decades to get a shield law through Congress, but
this was thought to have been the best chance yet of finally pushing it over
the finish line.