Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will wait until after August recess to vote on federal shield law legislation introduced last week. The committee met today to consider the Free Flow of Information Act, but ran out of time before holding a vote.
The Committee is scheduled to reconvene Sept. 12. In the meantime, senators will work to hash out amendments to the legislation. And First Amendment advocates, including the Authors Guild, will continue efforts to support the bill.
With the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to take up federal shield law legislation tomorrow, advocates are rallying support for passage of this crucial First Amendment protection
The Authors Guild is part of a coalition of news companies, media trade groups and other free press advocacy organizations that have sent a letter to Judiciary Committee members that says:
“In the wake of revelations that the Justice Department used a warrant to obtain the email content of a Fox News reporter, and secretly subpoenaed Associated Press phone records affecting over 100 journalists and covering over 20 lines (including work, home and cell phones; bureaus in three different cities; and the AP line at the House of Representatives press gallery), a federal shield law is needed now more than ever to prevent government overreach and protect the public’s right to know.”
Those revelations led Attorney General Eric Holder recently to issue new guidelines for obtaining journalists’ records while investigating leaks. The bipartisan Free Flow of Information Act, based on a 2009 bill that made it through committee but failed to become law, would expand on and codify those new DOJ guidelines.
Senators Renew Push for Shield Law; Say Bill Would Codify Justice Department’s New Protections for Journalists
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled this week to consider legislation that would turn into law new Department of Justice guidelines putting greater restrictions on how the government collects journalists’ private information while investigating leaks.
The shield law legislation calls for courts to “apply a balancing test before compelling disclosure” of sources and other information from journalists. It also requires that courts arbitrate government media records requests and that journalists be notified within 90 days of their records being reviewed by the DOJ.
The Authors Guild, which has long backed the enactment of such a law, is part of a coalition of media organizations calling on Congress to use this as an opportunity to strengthen the First Amendment protection of press freedom.
Earlier this month, the DOJ drafted a new policy for investigating journalists in response to outrage over revelations that it secretly collected the phone records of Associated Press reporters and examined emails of Fox News reporter James Rosen in a search for the source of government leaks.