For Immediate Release:
Dave Aeikens, SPJ President, (320) 255-8744,
Scott Leadingham, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 211,
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is encouraged by the action of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, which today passed H.R. 985, the Free Flow of Information Act. The bill now awaits a vote before the full House.
“If this crucial bill eventually comes before President Obama, we urge him to sign it immediately and affirm his support for openness,” said SPJ President Dave Aeikens.
Known as the Shield Law, the measure would grant protections to journalists who refuse to reveal confidential sources, even when compelled by a subpoena and the threat of penal action. Currently, 49 states offer legislative or administrative protections to journalists. No such law exists at the federal level.
As the most broad-based journalism organization in the country, SPJ has been at the forefront – along with numerous media organizations – of the fight to safeguard information and ultimately maintain vital news reporting in the public interest.
“This isn’t about granting special privileges for reporters,” said Aeikens. “This fight is for everyone – the public and the press. This is about preserving and strengthening our democracy.”
The effort to enact a federal shield law has been ongoing since 2005. The most recent bill, H.R. 985, was introduced in February. Although the bill previously passed the House last year, it ultimately stalled in the Senate in July 2008, despite bipartisan support in both chambers.
While campaigning for president, both then-Senator Barack Obama and current Senator John McCain voiced their support for the bill, eventually becoming cosponsors for the Senate version.
Obama administration officials have already shown support for such a law. Attorney General Eric Holder, in his confirmation hearing, indicated he did not hold the same view as former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who recommended President Bush veto the bill if passed by Congress.
Along with SPJ, a number of other organizations have joined the effort to pass a federal shield law, including the Newspaper Association of American, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Radio and Television News Directors Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. Learn more about SPJ’s efforts by clicking here.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ 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 more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.