President Obama and Congress, after you’re done fixing the economy and dealing with the Middle East and global warming — or maybe if you get a spare moment before then — it’s time to pass a reporter’s privilege law.
Nearly all states have one, and there was a bill to pass a federal reporter’s privilege (or “shield law”) in the last Congress. The bill died, though, and even if it had passed President Bush would have vetoed it.
Now, with President Obama in office, there is real reason to hope for action on a federal shield law. Too many subpoenas have been issued recently trying to make reporters disclose confidential sources. Such subpoenas — which resulted in the high-profile jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller –discourage investigative reporting and can keep whistleblowers from coming forward.
The reporter’s privilege is vital protection for a free press and has helped the cause of free speech considerably at the state level. It should be enacted, at long last, at the federal level.