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Federal Shield Law (Finally) Faces Senate Committee Vote

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Federal Shield Law (Finally) Faces Senate Committee Vote

Article excerpt

The latest version of a federal shield law is facing another hurdle in the U.S. Senate this week. It as goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday for a likely vote.

SB448 co-sponsored by Sen. Arlen Spector, D-Pa.; Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; would provide protection for journalists seeking to keep confidential sources anonymous at the federal level. While some 39 states have such a law, none exists for federal court cases.

Another version of the bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year.

"It takes into account the needs of both sides," said Kevin Goldberg, legal counsel for the American Society of News Editors, which has been urging passage of the bill. "The needs of reporters to protect sources unless the information is absolutely needed in court and the needs of government to have access to information and even sources in the right circumstances."

The bill was changed last week during a hearing before the committee, with some amendments proposed, Goldberg said. He added that more changes could occur on Thursday before a vote.

"We are very hopeful, we are feeling very confident," he said. "We are pretty confident this bill will get out of the judiciary committee."

Several newspapers this week are running editorials urging passage of the legislation. Among those are The Sacramento Bee, Dallas Morning News, Newsday, The Buffalo News, Las Vegas Review-Journal and The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash. …

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