Free Press Pushes Shield Law


Media activist group Free Press sent out an e-mail alert Tuesday to drum up support for a federal shield law for journalists.

The alert asks recipients to sign on to an e-mail petition asking for passage of Senate and House bills that would establish a federal shield law, which would prevent the government from compelling journalists to give up their confidential sources.

All but one state currently has either a law or a court ruling upholding some type of protection for the journalist-source relationship.

The Free Press e-mail also points out that unions representing reporters and communications workers have planned a series of rallies to coincide with their call for two minutes of silence Wednesday, July 6, at noon, when a judge is supposed to decide the legal fates of two reporters--Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time magazine, who have refused to give up their confidential sources (though Time gave up some of Cooper's notes, citing the Supreme Court decision and a desire to keep Cooper out of jail).

That judge's ruling is prompted by the Supreme Court's refusal last week to intervene in the contempt of court citations handed out to the two reporters for refusing to give up information on their investigation into the leak of the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame.

Rallies organized by the Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America are planned for more than a dozen cities, including New York, L.A. and Washington, according to Guild/CWA President Linda Foley, who says the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists local in Washington has joined that effort as well.

Foley says the protests will be relatively short--under an hour--given that these are journalists who will be protesting, and that news cycle can never be counted on to cooperate. For one, there will be the story of the judge's ruling on Cooper and Miller to digest.

Foley says the idea behind the rallies is twofold: 1) to show the reporters that their colleagues are behind them; and 2) to push for the shield law.

For Free Press, it is another in a series of online drives that currently includes a petition calling for the ouster of embattled Corporation for Public Broadcasting Chairman Ken Tomlinson and an EZ-filing form to tell the commission to hold local hearings on its revamp of ownership rules.