Shield law good for America
For those who decide to divulge to a reporter information that can shed a spotlight on wrongdoing, a federal shield law is an easy thing to understand and support. After all, someone brave enough to expose a crime shouldn’t necessarily have to face retaliation or other consequences for speaking up.
But in the absence of a federal shield law for journalists, anonymous sources can be named, or reporters jailed when they withhold such information. For years, a patchwork of different laws in different states have made it unclear where journalists stand, and a mix of court cases has failed to establish a clear precedent.
The U.S. Senate is voting soon ” perhaps this week ” on a shield law that would offer a national blanket of protection for journalists and their confidential sources. Such a law seems a logical extension of First Amendment rights, and we fully support passage of the legislation. After all, the media ” be they bloggers, radio news people, TV reporters or print journalists ” are often the last line of defense against government corruption. In recent years, federal prosecutors have shown too much willingness to use journalists as an extension of their own investigative team. The press simply must have assurance in all 50 states that it can operate without fear of being coerced to testify and reveal confidential sources.
While this problem has grown in the Bush years, a federal shield law is something we should have in place in perpetuity.
The basic rights of journalists should be enshrined in a national legal standard, not subject to the whims of individual courts or states. Such a law is not just good for journalists and their sources, but for all Americans interested in the truth.
Vail Daily Editorial Board