On Thursday 12/10/09 the Senate Judiciary Committee referred the reporters shield to the full Senate. The Radio Television Digital News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists joined with House shield co-sponsors Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Mike Pence (R-IN) in hailing the action.
RTDNA urged quick Senate floor action. “Committee passage of this Federal Shield Law is the first step towards victory for freedom of the press and the public’s right to know,” said RTDNA Chairman Stacey Woelfel. “This association has been behind a Federal Shield Law for many years. I’m very excited to see it move this much closer to becoming a reality. ” He continued, “Countless important stories have been possible because of the protections the states offer with their shield laws. The leadership of RTDNA strongly believes in a Federal Shield Law to offer the same protections, and we urge full passage now that the bill has reached the Senate floor.”
SPJ was equally pleased. “This is a valuable piece of legislation that provides a greater flow of information to the American public and protects a journalist’s anonymous sources,” SPJ President Kevin Smith said. “We are enthusiastic about it and its future in the legislative process. This moment has been five years in the making and a great amount of effort has been put forth to reach this point. While we understand this is a work in progress and it must win a floor vote, we are confident that the merits of this legislation will carry it.”
Said Boucher, “Today’s approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee brings us one step closer to enacting the legislation I authored with my colleague Mike Pence, the Free Flow of Information Act. Our legislation appropriately places the public’s right to know above the more narrow interest in the administration of justice in a particular federal case. The absence of federal legislation protecting reporters’ sources limits the public’s access to information which is vital to the functioning of a democratic society. The press allows citizens to serve as watchdogs, speaking out about and exposing what are often illegal, corrupt, or dangerous activities by both private and government actors.”
Pence added, “Earlier this year, the House unanimously passed H.R. 985, the Free Flow of Information Act, which I authored with Rep. Rick Boucher more than four years ago. And today, I am encouraged by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote to send the federal media shield bill to the floor of the U.S. Senate for consideration. We are one step closer to ensuring for generations to come the vitality of a free and independent press. I commend all of the Senators who have worked so hard on this bill, especially the senior Senator from my home state of Indiana, Senator Richard Lugar, who was an original cosponsor.”
RBR-TVBR observation: The positive statements from the two House co-sponsors would seem to indicate that this bill will survive reconciliation. If that’s true, a Senate stamp of approval will be tantamount to forwarding the measure to the White House, which already struck its compromise. So prospects for the bill look good.