Dec 102009
 December 10, 2009  Laws, U.S.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved legislation to establish a qualified privilege for journalists to protect their confidential sources and the public’s right to know. The bipartisan Free Flow of Information Act was first listed for Committee consideration in April, and Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has worked with the bill’s chief sponsors to move the legislation forward.

The media shield legislation was introduced by Senators Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in February. Leahy, Schumer and Specter have worked with the Obama administration and supporters of the bill to negotiate a federal shield law for reporters. Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have codified or common law protections for confidential source information. The Free Flow of Information Act was approved by the Committee by a bipartisan vote of 14 to five.

“The Free Flow of Information Act strikes the right balance among the important objectives of protecting our nation, enforcing our criminal laws and ensuring freedom of expression,” said Leahy. “After years of debate and countless cases of reporters being held in contempt, fined and even jailed for honoring their professional commitment not to publicly reveal their sources, the time has come to enact a balanced Federal shield law.”

Leahy continued, “This legislation was too long delayed in Committee. I commend Senators Specter and Schumer for working with the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Office of the White House Counsel, and various media organizations in consultation on this legislation. I look forward to the full Senate’s consideration of this important bill.”

The Judiciary Committee first reported media shield legislation under Leahy’s chairmanship in the 110th Congress. It was ultimately filibustered on the Senate floor. Thursday’s meeting was the 18th executive session this year for which Leahy listed the legislation for consideration in the Judiciary Committee.

The Free Flow of Information Act is supported by more than 70 news media and journalism organizations, including ABC News, the Associated Press, CNN, the National Newspaper Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Vermont Press Association.

To read amendments considered by the Committee, visit the Senate Judiciary Committee website.

Source: Senator Patrick Leahy

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