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Whistleblowers => Whistleblowing => Investigative Journalism => Topic started by: Elaine Davis on June 11, 2014, 05:32:31 AM

Title: What if the media had a shield law?
Post by: Elaine Davis on June 11, 2014, 05:32:31 AM (

What if the media had a shield law?

The Republic | 6:50 p.m. MST June 7, 2014

What If: Two experts debate the outcome if reporters were protected from revealing their sources.

The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a reporter who refuses to reveal the source of a leak of classified information. He could go to jail. Media groups redoubled their advocacy for a bill promising journalists protection for their sources.

We asked two experts: What if we had a media shield law now?

David Cuillier(Photo: handout)

Americans would know more about what their government is up to, and we would be a better country.

Already we struggle to know what is going on within the federal government, whether it is how the NSA spies on U.S. citizens, the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act or the management of our borders.

Federal agencies have figured out how to effectively manage the message by threatening to imprison, fine and bankrupt journalists who won't divulge confidential sources. James Risen of The New York Times could face prison, along with 800 other journalists served with federal subpoenas every year.

The result is sources are less willing to expose corruption and government waste, and for that we all lose. America loses.

A federal shield law can minimize that damage. The proposed Free Flow of Information Act (S. 987) provides the right balance — guaranteeing protections for important information to come forth without compromising national security or law enforcement. The bill provides exceptions for information that would prevent death, sex crimes against children and damage to critical infrastructure. It makes sense.

A shield law is not a new concept. Arizona and 48 other states provide some form of shield protection for journalists, and the system works well at the state and local level. Many nations have federal shield laws. It's long overdue for the U.S. government to do the same.

Not for the sake of journalists, but for the sake of all of us.

David Cuillier is director of University of Arizona's journalism school and president of the Society of Professional Journalists.


Hans Von Spakovsky(Photo: Heritage Foundation

With an impregnable shield law, journalists could operate outside the law, withholding information vital to criminal investigations, even participating directly in crimes.

Assured that they could not be pressured into revealing sources no matter what, journalists looking to make a name for themselves could far more easily solicit and publish classified information critical to national security.
Don't get me wrong. First Amendment protections of the press are extremely important. A free press is essential to maintaining our democratic republic. But those rights do not include giving reporters immunity from breaking the law. That would give them a special privilege not enjoyed by ordinary Americans.

Nor is special privilege needed. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Branzburg vs. Hayes that journalists have no First Amendment privilege that shields them from being compelled to testify before a grand jury. That has not stopped reporters, bloggers and citizen journalists from investigating and publishing numerous stories about high crimes and misdemeanors by government officials.

The absence of a federal shield law has not prevented reporting on everything from Watergate to the Pentagon Papers to Operation Fast & Furious.

A media shield law would give the institutional press rights far above and beyond those of ordinary citizens — a fundamentally unjust and dangerous proposition.

No "regular" American who witnessed criminals synthesizing drugs, as the reporter in Branzburg did, could refuse to give law enforcement authorities the information needed to bring those criminals to justice. A free press does not require the "right" to aid and abet criminal behavior with impunity.

Hans von Spakovsky is senior fellow at Heritage Foundation's Edwin Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
Title: Re: What if the media had a shield law?
Post by: TheTrueChessplayer on August 17, 2014, 02:00:16 AM
The media doesnt tell the truth XD. Or at least most.
Title: Re: What if the media had a shield law?
Post by: Elaine Davis on August 18, 2014, 20:12:36 PM
No, the media, as protected by protocols, cannot reveal the absolute truth....however, it CAN, while PROTECTED from the TRUTH, sensationalize lies for the sake of ratings. We all know that. And thus, a true picture of even our personal selves and how things affect us becomes a separate maze of illusions.

I read, perceive and hope. That is all I can do. =)