Shield Laws in general were created to protect the freedom of the media from having to reveal their sources or being prosecuted for not doing so. This was done to protect journalistic integrity and protect the publics right-to-know. In the United States, 34 states have statutory shield laws, 16 have various confidentiality laws, and five have proposed legislation to enact statutory laws. Around the world it is hard to gauge which countries truly protect their journalist but a 2011 Gallup Poll suggest that out of 112 countries surveyed, 67% say their country has freedom of the press. That freedom enables journalist to keep their sources confidential.
Federal Shield Laws
After many tries in Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee has been approved proposed legislation called the Free Flow of Information Act (FFIA). This is the first time on a national level, that journalist would be able to protect their sources in federal cases. This bill however, would not give complete immunity for journalist but instead allow for federal judges to make determinations based on civil, criminal, or national security issues. It also answered the definition of journalist under the shield laws. Under FFIA, journalist include someone who has been in an employment relationship with a media organization for at least one year within the past 20 years, or three months within the past five years. Freelancers (including bloggers) with at least a five-year history and student journalist are also covered. However, there are exceptions.
No Privilege for Leaks
According to bill creator Senator Charles Schumer, in a press release dated September 12, 2013, spells out these exceptions to include classified leak cases. Journalists have no privilege against disclosing information when that information would prevent acts of terrorism or harm national security. This is in response to Wikileaks and most recently the NSA scandal.
As technology progresses and information becomes more readily available, news gathering techniques will continue to evolve and more and more people will become sources for news outlets. The added protection that the FFIA brings will solidify the freedom of the press and the publics right-to-know will continue.
Kansas Press Association
News Room Law Blog http://www.newsroomlawblog.com/articles/shield-laws/
Senator Charles Schumer http://www.schumer.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=345700&