Some (Shocking) Shield Law Sense From Pence

new20keyboardAnyone who has any familiarity with this site knows that I loathe most Republicans and some Democrats, but every one in awhile, some development causes me rethink that, and we have an example of that here from Indiana Repug U.S. House Rep Mike Pence…

This week we celebrate “Sunshine Week” in America, and we take time out to recognize the importance of a free and independent press in our nation. But, we must be ever vigilant about maintaining and protecting the freedoms and independence our press enjoy.

Four years ago, I originally authored the Free Flow of Information Act with Congressman Rick Boucher of Virginia. The bill, also known as a federal media shield bill, provides a qualified privilege of confidentiality to journalists, which enables them to bring forward information to the public that might otherwise never see the light of day. The bill is not about protecting journalists, it’s about protecting the public’s right to know.

A prior related post is here about another unlikely ally in this fight (strange to be complimenting Pence since he was also responsible for this; sorry if I overdid it with the wordplay about his name).

And this tells us that a Senate version of the Pence/Boucher House bill was introduced last month by Sens. Arlen Specter, Charles Schumer, Richard Lugar, and Lindsay Graham.

The story also tells us that…

At the state level, 49 states and the District of Columbia provide some legal protection for journalists and their sources.

However…

In June 2008, the Attorneys General from 42 states warned that the lack of federal standards was “producing inconsistency and uncertainty for reporters and the confidential sources” and undermining state shield laws.

Aggressive prosecutors have learned how to sometimes do an “end run” around the existing state shield laws by bringing a case to bar in federal courts. One such example was the case against online journalist and blogger (Josh) Wolf in 2007, NPPA’s general legal counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher said.

“A freelance photographer in California, Wolf spent 226 days in prison for his refusal to turn over his raw video of an incident involving the San Francisco police. He would have normally been protected by California’s strong shield law until prosecutors did an end run around the state’s protections by bringing the case in federal court where there was no such protection,” Osterreicher said.

The story also tells us that Bushco threatened to veto the federal shield law in 2007, and “last year the Senate measure was stalled by Republicans (when) a 51-43 vote failed to move the legislation forward. The bill needed at least 60 votes to proceed, and it got stuck when Senate Republicans refused to debate the law until the body addressed a bill that provided more domestic oil and gas production.”

Well, now with the price of oil way under $100 a barrel, I would say that there is no longer any excuse not to get a federal shield law bill passed and sent to Obama’s desk (and kudos to Schumer and the other congressional Repugs for keeping up the fight).

Update 3/21/09: Serves me right for giving credit to Olson for anything (he’s mentioned in a linked prior post) – all Bossie and his playmates have to do here is identify who’s funding this Hillary hit piece, and we can all go home…BUT NOOOOOO!!!

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