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It is time for a Federal Shield Law for Journalists

New York Times Reporter Jailed for Keeping Source Secret

Today Times reporter Judith Miller went to jail rather than devulge her sources in the Plame investigation.

She's not the first or last. Here is a list of journalists jailed for fined for refusing to testify since 1984.

That link above is the "source" to go to if you are a journalist and want information about the Plume case or other cases involving feedom of the press and specifically information about shield law; privacy issues, as well as a great source for background on the Plume story. Main page is here The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Here is their Excutive Director's press release after Judith was sentenced.

While I don't see the press's role as a "government watchdog", nonetheless, I do see the need for Federal Shield Laws. The current laws are convoluted and confusing, with different States having differing critera. If bloggers want to really become the "new media" they need to get the information on what is going on in current legislation regarding proposed Federal Sheild Laws, as well as know what the current laws for their state.

For example for those who cite the DC Court of Appeals ruling that "The First Amendment does not provide a priviledge from testimony before a grand jury. Yes, that was the ruling. However:

"The judges unanimously agreed that the First Amendment does not provide a privilege from testimony before a grand jury, but split on the issue of whether a "common law" privilege -- one rooted in previous court decisions, not the constitution -- exists. In any case, all agreed that a common law privilege would have been overcome by the prosecutor by apparently showing that the information was critical and only available from the journalists -- although that part of the court's opinion was redacted from the public version." - Read more here.

Again, the need for clarification. The site also has the pending legislation regarding this.

Sooner or later - as in fact it already has in the past - this will begin to affect those bloggers who cite 'confidential sources', and faced with the "Do I give them up; or go to jail?"

Also read this OPED from Theordore Olsen from June 12th, 2005 regarding this issue. (Note this was prior to the Supreme Court Declining to hear the case on June 26th).


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