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White House Brings Back Bill to Shield Journalists

In the wake of the AP phone records scandal, the White House is reviving a bill that would protect journalists from revealing their sources, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

The so-called media shield bill would in certain cases prevent journalists from being compelled to reveal the names of their sources. A similar bill had previously been introduced, but the White House had sought exemptions for national security leaks, which advocates said went against the essence of the bill.

From the article:

Prosecutors would have had to go to a court before subpoenaing a reporter, leaving a judge to determine whether national security considerations trumped free-press concerns. The legislation carved out narrow exceptions for cases involving imminent danger or a terrorist attack.

The White House tried to add to that list any leak case involving a matter of significant harm to national security. The administration changes would have instructed judges to largely defer to the government on whether the matter would have caused such harm.

Government-decided national security exemptions are frequently a hindrance to transparency, strong whistleblower protections and freedom of the press.

The shield law would not have prevented the Justice Department from obtaining the AP’s phone records, but it would have made the process more open and would have included an independent arbiter.

Read more about the history and future of the federal shield bill in the Los Angeles Times.

By: Andre Francisco
Online Producer, POGO

andre francisco Andre Francisco is the Online Producer for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Whistleblower Protections

Authors: Andre Francisco

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