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Bring on the long overdue federal press shield law

This year there is a good chance a federal press shield law will pass.

The Free Flow of Information Act of 2009 was introduced this past week by Reps. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Rick Boucher, D-Va.

The 2008 version of this bill passed the House 382-21 but never came to vote in the Senate, partly because a veto threat by the Bush administration.

But President Obama supported prior versions as a senator.

All of Nevada’s representative voted for the bill this past year and our new delegate, Dina Titus, said through a spokesman that she supports it.

The bill has a number of caveats that would still allow prosecutors and other to delve into journalists’ sources under certain circumstances, such as national security. It also contains a catch-all balancing test clause that would require disclosure of sources if a compelling public interest outweighs the reasons for shielding sources.

Rep. Boucher said of the bill in a statement, "Often the best source of information about public corruption or misdeeds in a large corporation or charity is a person on the inside of the organization who would like to bring the facts to public light, but that person has a lot to lose and to avoid punishment at the hands of superiors will only divulge the information to a reporter if promised confidentiality. If confidentiality cannot be assured, the public may never learn of the wrong doing and never have an opportunity to take corrective action.”

Rep. Pence, a former conservation radio talk show host, said, "The time has come for Congress to enact a federal media shield statute. This is not about protecting reporters. It’s about protecting the public’s right to know.”

Because there was no federal shield law, New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to reveal sources about the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, even though Miller never wrote a story about her.

Along with a few partisan barbs at the press, here is what New York Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter said in 2007 about the shield law:

 

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