ACLU Calls for Senate to Back Strong Media Shield Law

July 25, 2008 12:00 am

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEWashington, DC – As negotiations continue on media shield legislation in the Senate, the American Civil Liberties Union once again voiced its support for a law that fiercely protects the public’s right to know. Last year, the House passed the Free Flow of Information Act – a bill that has real protections for journalists and their sources.

The following can be attributed to Terri Schroeder, ACLU Senior Lobbyist:

“As Congress weighs this important issue, the ACLU will continue to push for passage of a meaningful federal media shield law. In recent years, we have seen a troubling increase in the number of journalists who have been threatened with or served time in jail simply for doing their jobs. With historic stories revealing warrantless wiretapping and the CIA’s use of torture, it’s hard to imagine that our government would ever be held accountable for its actions if it weren’t for a free press and its confidential sources.

“Unfortunately, as we move closer and closer to getting a shield bill to the Senate floor, the bill is becoming weaker and weaker. Many agree that there are circumstances when a journalist holds confidential information that ought to be provided to the courts to protect the national security or prevent acts of terrorism. We believe those circumstances ought to be kept to a bare minimum to keep real protections in place for the kind of journalism that is essential to a free society. When determining whether or not to force a reporter to turn over confidential information or to name a source, courts should be required to balance the public’s right to know and the journalist’s rights against the government’s stated interest. We are concerned that proposed modifications to this bill will threaten the legitimacy and integrity of the balancing required.

“We continue to encourage the Senate leadership and the bill’s sponsors to stand firm against the administration’s relentless effort to gut significant protections in what will be the first federal shield law. No matter how much Senator Specter and others on both sides of the aisle fight for legitimate protections, some will not be happy until the shield bill is ‘compromised’ into an empty gesture.”

To read the ACLU’s report urging the passage of a federal shield law, go to:

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