Clint Brewer, President, (615) 301-9229
Beth King, Communications Manager (317) 927-8000, ext. 211
INDIANAPOLIS — Leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists have signed onto an amicus brief with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in support of former USA Today reporter Toni Locy.
On Friday, Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that Locy was in contempt of court for refusing to reveal her confidential sources in the Privacy Act suit brought by former Army scientist Dr. Steven J. Hatfill — who was considered a person of interest in the 2001 anthrax attacks. SPJ leaders say this move demonstrates the need for a federal shield law.
“Judge Walton’s ruling proves why reporters must have federal protections when reporting stories where confidentiality is of vital importance,” said Clint Brewer, SPJ President. “For acting as a watchdog for the people, Locy is being punished when the information being sought could have come from other means.”
The judge declined to recognize any common law privilege that would have permitted Locy to shield her source’s identity. Even more disturbing is that Judge Walton refused to issue a stay that would allow Locy to appeal to the D.C. Circuit. Additionally, Locy will be individually and solely responsible for paying up to $5,000 a day in fines for every day she refuses to comply. Gannett plans to file for an emergency stay of the contempt citation today.
“There are times when reporters must give up their confidential sources,” said David Cuillier, SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee chairman. “However, this is not one of them. This will not help justice or the judicial system. It will only further prevent the free flow of information from reaching the public.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of a federal shield law (H.R. 2102) in October. The Senate version (S. 2035) also passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in October and now awaits a floor vote.
Organizations who have signed onto the amicus brief include: Magazine Publishers of America, The McClatchy Co., Tribune Co., Scripps, Time Inc., Communications Workers of America,
Cox Communications, Dow Jones & Company, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Hearst and CBS.
To voice support for Locy and a federal shield law, SPJ leaders are encouraging journalists and members of the public to contact members of Congress. To locate U.S. House of Representatives members, visit House.gov. For a list of U.S. Senate members, visit Senate.gov.
SPJ, the nation’s most broad-based journalism-advocacy organization, has raised more than $30,000 since 2006 to support a campaign for the passage of a federal shield law.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For further information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.