Newspaper renews call for federal shield


The San Francisco Chronicle notes that President George W. Bush was against a federal shield for reporters, but both Barack Obama and John McCain said on the campaign trail that they were for it. So the paper says it’s time to put it into law.

According to the Associated Press, the newspaper may soon get its wish. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been polishing its version of the bill and Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) believes he can get it through the committee and headed toward the floor for consideration by the full Senate sometime next week. However, as of late Friday afternoon there was nothing on the Committee’s schedule for this week.

The House has already passed a version of “Free Flow of Information Act,” the name under which the bill has been traveling about Capitol Hill.

The shield law, which would allow reporters to protect anonymous sources, is considered to be a critical tool in allowing journalists to fulfill the press’s role as government watchdog. Many whistleblowers would not be able to provide key information if they cannot get a guarantee that their identity will be protected.

The bill has enjoyed widespread bipartisan support but was not at all popular within the Bush administration.
The Chronicle wrote, “The main measure, known as the Free Flow of Information Act, stalled last year because of Bush administration worries that national security secrets might be disclosed, terrorist identities hidden or business trade secrets disclosed. These concerns are handled fairly by the proposed measure, which balances security needs with journalistic imperatives to get the news out.

RBR/TVBR observation: Most states have a shield law in place. It’s past due time for the US government to join the mainstream on this issue. We suspect it will be a relatively easy matter to get the bill through reconciliation and then autographed by the President.