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Ear to the Ground

First Federal Media Shield Legislation Passes House of Representatives

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Posted on Jun 5, 2014

    Rep. Alan Grayson. Photo by Blair Kelly and Tylor Bohlman

Late in May, the House of Representatives approved an amendment to an appropriations bill that would bar the Justice Department from compelling reporters to reveal the identities of and other information about their confidential sources. The “media shield” legislation, which has long been a goal for press advocates, was sponsored by Rep. Alan Grayson.

The New York Times reported:

The legislation, sponsored by Representative Alan Grayson, Democrat of Florida, has a long way to go before it would become law; in 2009, the House approved a media shield bill, but it died in the Senate. But the latest measure, approved just after midnight on Friday, resonated with the disclosure by the former Fox News reporter and producer, Mike Levine, who now works for ABC News.

Mr. Levine wrote in an article on the ABC News website that he was subpoenaed in January 2011, when he worked for Fox. He fought it rather than comply, he said, and the Justice Department dropped it in April 2012.

“Professional and personal life under the threat of jail for 16 subsequent months is best captured in a note I wrote to myself at the time: ‘I’ve felt like throwing up all day so far. ... Just that ‘racing heart’ feeling throughout,’ ” Mr. Levine wrote. “Still, I felt I had to protect my confidential sources.”

Read more here.

Grayson, a former Truthdigger of the Week, stated in a press release, “The purpose of this amendment is to raise the possibility of a Federal shield law that corresponds to shield law already in place in 49 States, but not at the level of the Federal Government.

“A shield law is legislation designed to protect a reporter’s privilege or the right of news reporters to refuse to testify as to information and sources of information obtained during a news gather and dissemination process. In short, a reporter should not be forced to reveal his or her source.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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