Journalist watchdog pushed for passage of reporters shield


S. 448, the Free Flow of Information Act is nearing its first anniversary as a committee-approved piece of legislation, but has still failed to make it to the floor for a full vote. The Society of Professional Journalists says it’s high time that the legislation, which provides for a federal reporter’s shield, becomes a law.

The bipartisan S. 448 bill became a perennial agenda item on the Senate Judiciary Committee calendar for awhile as members of the committee sparred over various issues with the bill and added numerous amendments, before it finally received thumbs up in December of 2009.

The upshot of the shield is to allow reporters to protect anonymous sources, considered by members of both parties as a right that is critical to the Fourth Estate’s ability to fulfill its role as a key government watchdog. Most states have a shield law, but there has never been one enacted at the federal level.

“We are rapidly closing in on the end of this congressional session, and we remind the senators that U.S. journalists have an expectation that this bill will be resolved,” SPJ President Kevin Z. Smith said. “After years of advocacy for this bill, we are close to a resolution, and we have hammered out what should be the last points of contention. We strongly encourage senators to allow a vote.”