The Radio-Television News Directors Association is applauding a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill to pass a federal shield law that would protect journalists from prosecution for refusing to divulge confidential sources.
As B&C reported Wednesady, The Free Flow of Information Act, sponsored by Sens. Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Rick Boucher (D-VA), would extend protections to journalists that also apply clergy, attorneys and physicians.
The proposed legislation “provides protection against compelled disclosure of confidential sources by making the guidelines mandatory. In doing so, this legislation strikes a balance between the public’s need for information and the fair administration of justice," the lawmakers said in a statement.
RTNDA President Barbara Cochran noted such a law would help other journalists avoid the fate of WJAR Providence investigative reporter Jim Taricani, who was convicted of contempt and served 121 days of house arrest for refusing to reveal a source.
“Protecting a reporter’s right to confidential sources is essential to preserving the public’s right to know and to hold government accountable for its actions,” Cochran said in a statement. “Without this protection, whistleblowers and others would be afraid to come forward to expose wrongdoing and to effect change. It would be devastating if reporters have to choose between going to jail and breaking a promise to a source.”
Shield laws are currently in place in 33 states and the District of Columbia.