House Votes For Journalist Shield

A federal shield law again passed in the House Friday (May 30) after an amendment was added to a House Appropriations bill that effectively prohibits the the Department of Justice from compelling journalist to give up their confidential sources.

The House passed the 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Act late last week, after approving an amendment introduced by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) that "prohibits funds to compel a journalist or reporter to testify about information or sources that they regard to be confidential." The amendment passed 225 to 183.

Journalist groups have been trying for years to get a federal shield law comparable to laws in 49 of 50 states.

The Free Flow of Information Act, which would have established that federal shield law, twice passed in the House over the past few years before being stalled in the Senate.

“At this point under current law, journalists are in a quandary. They realize the need to protect their sources. That right is recognized in 49 States, but it is not codified at the Federal level," said Grayson after his amendment was approved. “I think this is a very important principle…that springs from the foundation of our law. The Constitution and the First Amendment provide for freedom of speech and of the press. It is completely incongruous to say we have freedom of the press, but the Federal Government can subpoena your sources and put them and you in prison--if you don't comply."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.