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Boucher introduces shield law again

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Citing the need for a federal media shield law to protect reporters from being compelled to reveal their confidential news sources, U.S. Representative Rick Boucher has introduced a Free Flow of Information Act to Congress for the second year in a row.
During the last (110th) Congress the measure was approved by a bipartisan majority of 398 to 21 in the House of Representatives, but later died when the Senate did not take up the measure.
This time around, Boucher is joined in sponsorship of the bill by 38 of his colleagues in the House, including Mike Pence (R-Indiana), Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Michigan), and Vice Ranking Member of the Committee Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia).
“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,” Boucher said. “If confidentiality cannot be assured, the public may never learn of the wrong doing and never have an opportunity to take corrective action.”
Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia currently have statutes protecting reporters from the compelled disclosure of sources of information.
“The absence of federal legislation protecting reporters’ sources limits the public’s access to information which is vital to the functioning of a democratic society. The press allows citizens to serve as watchdogs, speaking out about and exposing what are often illegal, corrupt, or dangerous activities by both private and government actors,” Boucher added.
During the past few years, more than thirty reporters have been subpoenaed or questioned in federal court proceedings about confidential sources, and several have been handed or threatened with jail sentences. Such actions inevitably effect the willingness of reporters to rely on confidential sources and on the willingness of sources to speak to reporters.
The Free Flow of Information Act sets criteria which must be met before information can be subpoenaed from reporters in any federal criminal or civil matter.
The standards set forth in the legislation balances the public interest in the free flow of information against the public interest in compelled testimony.
Only when the national security is at risk or where imminent bodily harm is threatened will there be a compelled disclosure by a reporter of the source of confidential information. The measure makes these standards mandatory in all federal judicial, legislative and administrative proceedings, with heightened protection for the identities of confidential sources.

“The Free Flow of Information Act appropriately places the public’s right to know above the more narrow interest of the administration of justice in a particular federal case. In fact, in many instances, the critical information which first alerts federal prosecutors to conduct a criminal proceeding is contained in a news story which could only have been reported upon with the assurance of anonymity to the news source,” Boucher stated.
Passage of this measure will assure a stronger underpinning of both freedom of the press and free speech in future years,” Boucher concluded.

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Boucher introduces shield law again

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Citing the need for a federal media shield law to protect reporters from being compelled to reveal their confidential news sources, U.S. Representative Rick Boucher has introduced a Free Flow of Information Act to Congress for the second year in a row.
During the last (110th) Congress the measure was approved by a bipartisan majority of 398 to 21 in the House of Representatives, but later died when the Senate did not take up the measure.
This time around, Boucher is joined in sponsorship of the bill by 38 of his colleagues in the House, including Mike Pence (R-Indiana), Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Michigan), and Vice Ranking Member of the Committee Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia).
“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,” Boucher said. “If confidentiality cannot be assured, the public may never learn of the wrong doing and never have an opportunity to take corrective action.”
Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia currently have statutes protecting reporters from the compelled disclosure of sources of information.
“The absence of federal legislation protecting reporters’ sources limits the public’s access to information which is vital to the functioning of a democratic society. The press allows citizens to serve as watchdogs, speaking out about and exposing what are often illegal, corrupt, or dangerous activities by both private and government actors,” Boucher added.
During the past few years, more than thirty reporters have been subpoenaed or questioned in federal court proceedings about confidential sources, and several have been handed or threatened with jail sentences. Such actions inevitably effect the willingness of reporters to rely on confidential sources and on the willingness of sources to speak to reporters.
The Free Flow of Information Act sets criteria which must be met before information can be subpoenaed from reporters in any federal criminal or civil matter.
The standards set forth in the legislation balances the public interest in the free flow of information against the public interest in compelled testimony.
Only when the national security is at risk or where imminent bodily harm is threatened will there be a compelled disclosure by a reporter of the source of confidential information. The measure makes these standards mandatory in all federal judicial, legislative and administrative proceedings, with heightened protection for the identities of confidential sources.

“The Free Flow of Information Act appropriately places the public’s right to know above the more narrow interest of the administration of justice in a particular federal case. In fact, in many instances, the critical information which first alerts federal prosecutors to conduct a criminal proceeding is contained in a news story which could only have been reported upon with the assurance of anonymity to the news source,” Boucher stated.
Passage of this measure will assure a stronger underpinning of both freedom of the press and free speech in future years,” Boucher concluded.

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