A Federal Shield Law Protects Free Flow of Information

The House of Representatives passing the Free Flow of Information Act is a big step in the process of finally providing federal protection for journalists from being forced to reveal anonymous sources. SPJ will work diligently to get Senate and presidential approval later this year.

This bill is important to democracy and to making sure government operates well. People who are aware of wrongdoing should be able to make that information public without facing retribution. Journalists who report the wrongdoing based on secret sources should not be forced to break promises and reveal their sources. All but one state has legislative, administrative or common law protections of this nature for journalists. It’s time to extend that protection to the federal level. Too many times federal prosecutors and civil lawyers have come to journalists first when doing their investigations.

This potential Shield Law is an effort by many national media organizations including the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization. The bill enjoys bipartisan support among Representatives and Senators who understand the importance of a free press in society. Passage of the bill will allow reporters to continue to do the essential work of serving as government watchdogs and being the vital link between citizens and government. Journalists would be able to do their jobs without fear of subpoenas and threats of jail time and fines for not revealing sources.

SPJ and its 9,000 members look forward to the continued discussion and debate on this important public issue.

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