Monday, March 03, 2008
Progress report and editorial on a federal journalists' shield bill
The Washington Post this morning (March 3 2008) ran an energetic editorial urging the adoption of journalist shield laws. The story is called “Time for a Shield Law: Reporters and their sources need protection,” with the link here. The specific case deals with USA Today reporter Toni Locy, who was held in contempt of court Feb. 19 for refusing to name sources for a story about Steven J. Hatfill, named as a “person of interest” in the fall 2001 anthrax case. The case has led to a Privacy Act lawsuit by Mr. Hatfill against the government. The link for the editorial is here.
There was a famous article on the anthrax cases authored by David Tell in the April 9, 2002 Weekly Standard, here.
The Post editorial today notes that 49 states, as well as the District of Columbia, have such laws. The House has passed a bill but it is stalled in the Senate. I’ve put up a reference list on the issue in Congress today here. The bill would apparently provide reasonable protection (“qualified privilege” for reporters except in cases where the information is needed to save lives or to resolve a major legal issue and where the information is not available elsewhere.
Jacqui Cheng wrote an article in the May 2007 Ars Technica that discusses the belief that the House bill would provide some protection for bloggers, link here.
The bill apparently considers weblogs that contain real journalism to be covered. There is no litmus test that requires “press credentials”, apparently.
March 6, 2008:
Distantly related is a Washington Post editorial today, p A20, "Secure Lawsuits: A Senate bill would allow civil liberties challenges to secret government operations," link here. The bill, the State Secrets Protection Act of 2008, S 2533, is discussed here on my Wordpress blog.
Update: April 16
The Washington Post has another editorial on this today, "The Free Flow of Information: It's time for a vote on a federal shield law," p A14, here.
Update: April 21, 2008
The ACLU has a blog entry on the need for a journalists shield law, here.
Update: May 9, 2008
ABC News has a story by Anna Schechter and Maddy Sauer, "Reporter Faces Financial Ruin for Not Naming Sources; Former USA Today Reporter Appeals Contempt Order for Not Revealing Her Anonymous Sources, Faces Fines of up to $5,000 a Day," link here
, about Toni Locy, and her refusal to name anonymous sources in a 2003 article discussing then Attorney General John Ashcroft's investigation into the 2001 anthrax cases that named Steven Hatfill as a "person of interest". Hatfill has since sued the government and has not been charged. The story is quite detailed. However Starkman & Associates has a story "Serving Toni Locy Her Just Deserts" here as well as Starkman's "Lucy Dalglish vs. The Public Good" here.