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Federal Shield Law May Pass This Year — Free Flow of Information Act, HR 985, Clears House Judiciary Committee

This may be the year the long-debated and much-needed federal shield law passes.

The so-called Free Flow of Information Act, HR 985, cleared the House Judiciary Committee March 25, and the committee’s chairman, Rep. John Conyers, committed to “swift action” on the bill this year. Last year the federal shield law sailed through the House, 398-21, but stalled in the Senate at the end of the session in the face of opposition from the Bush Administration and its Justice Department. The shield law has bipartisan backing, with Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, having introduced S448, a similar measure.

The shield law will help ensure the survival of investigative reporting in an era when the financial challenges confronting newspapers have made it more difficult for important stories to be told. It will also help protect whistleblowers who may have important stories to tell about corporate wrongdoing which led to financial scandals and imploding stock prices, and about potential government waste in the effort to deal with the recession.

Here’s hoping that this is the year the federal government enacts a shield law, as virtually all of the 50 states have through legislative or judicial action.