Before heading out of Washington, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) is making one last try to get a federal shield law passed. Such a law would protect the watchdog role of the press by allowing reporters to protect confidential sources, a necessary right at times when trying to keep tabs on government institutions. Fellow Indiana delegation member Richard Lugar (R-IN) has put the bill in play in the Senate in the past.
According to The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Pence has had Democratic support from Richard Boucher (D-VA) in the House and Chris Dodd (D-CT) in the Senate. He’ll need to find new members to take their place, as Dodd retired and Boucher was relieved of his duties by voters in his district – but they shouldn’t be hard to find, as the shield concept generally is received favorably by Democratic lawmakers.
Pence said, “Compelling reporters to testify, and in particular, compelling them to reveal the identity of their confidential sources, is a detriment to the public interest. Without the fee flow of information from sources to reporters, the public is ill-equipped to make informed decisions.”
Pence concluded, “As a conservative who believes in limited government, I know the only check on government power in real time is a free and independent press. The Free Flow of Information Act is not about protecting reporters; it is about protecting the public’s right to know.”
RBR-TVBR observation: We really thought this bill was going to make it out of the last Congress, but it got stalled and amended to death. It seems to be turning into one of those zombie bills – it can’t get passed, but it won’t go away. But who knows — maybe this time will the charm.