For Immediate Release
House Passes Media Shield Bill
Positive Step For First Amendment Rights But Broader Protections Needed, Says ACLU
WASHINGTON - A
bill aimed at protecting journalists and their readers’ access to
information was passed in the House of Representatives by voice vote
today. While the bill is a positive step forward in promoting First
Amendment rights, it should have protected a wider class of
journalists, not just those meeting certain requirements.
mandates federal court oversight of subpoenas that would force
journalists to reveal information gleaned from confidential sources.
However, in order to gain the protection of the bill, a reporter must
engage in journalism “regularly” and must do so “for a substantial
portion of [his or her] livelihood or for substantial financial gain.”
The American Civil Liberties Union supported the bill’s passage but
noted that it would have preferred stronger protections for those
reporters who aren’t engaged in journalism regularly or those who do so
democracy is in peril when reporters are threatened with prosecution,
and subpoenas are used as intimidation tactics. As we’ve seen in the
past, a government that operates in the shadows can have a devastating
effect on democracy. An unrestricted press is our best defense against
that. Now, as our government continues to fight transparency by actions
like improperly hiding behind ‘state secrets’ claims in our courtrooms,
journalistic freedom to push for the truth is as necessary as ever.
this bill is a strong step in the right direction, we believe its reach
is too narrow. This bill should safeguard all journalists, whether or
not they pursue the truth for money. The media landscape is shifting
greatly and those engaging in new forms of journalism should have
similar protections as those working in a newsroom.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.