‘Shield law’ should pass


Managing Editor

Last week, the U. S. House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 985, the Free Flow of Information Act, which will now go onto the full House for a vote.

Also known as a shield law, which 49 states currently have in place either through legislation or case law to protect journalists and their sources, it would provide a much needed federal standard. Although most states have some sort of protection in place, there is no consistency.

According to the The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, “More than 40 reporters have been subpoenaed or questioned about their confidential sources, their notes, and work product over the last few years in criminal and civil cases in federal court.”

The Detroit Free Press’ own David Ashenfelter is one of those reporters. According to Reuters, he was issued a subpoena for information used in a story about former prosecutor Richard Convertino, who has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice. But a Detroit federal judge “rejected Ashenfelter’s argument that he has a privilege under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect the identity of his sources – a right that many other judges in other jurisdictions have upheld.”

Having a federal umbrella which the U.S. District courts could use as a guideline would clear up a lot of disagreement.

But it isn’t the first time such a bill has passed initial stages to die off due to bipartisan stagnation. According to Society for Professional Journalists, the effort has been ongoing since 2005.