Target: Montana Governor Steve Bullock
Goal: Protect journalists and their sources from government surveillance and coercion.
Montana may explicitly bar the government from monitoring journalists’ communications through Internet providers if legislation introduced by State Representative Daniel Zolnikov becomes law. Journalists who protect their sources’ identities have become increasingly targeted by the government in recent years, so this is a vital piece of legislation. Demand that Montana’s governor sign the bill, the first of its kind in the country, into law.
Representative Zolnikov’s proposal is designed to close a dangerous loophole in the state’s existing journalist protection laws. Though normally news organizations and their staff enjoy a right called “reporter’s privilege” and cannot be compelled to release the identities of those they get information from, the government can still request that information from the Internet service providers the news organizations use. For instance, the government is prohibited from ordering a journalist to release emails they’ve sent and received from a source, but it can still request those correspondences from the email provider itself.
In recent years, the federal government has cracked down on both news organizations and individual reporters who expose classified information in an attempt to identify their sources. Consequently, we are in dire need of this legislation. Sign the petition below to demand that Montana’s Governor Steve Bullock pass this legislation into law.
Dear Governor Bullock,
I am writing you today regarding a bill that is currently working its way through your state legislature and will, hopefully, arrive on your desk in the near future. Called House Bill 207, it would provide a much-needed update to your state’s Media Confidentiality Act.
Freedom of the press is a fundamental component of American society. The right of a individual to expose government actions under the condition of anonymity and with an expectation of safety from repercussion is, similarly, a fundamental component of freedom of the press. As it stands, however, that right, and by extension freedom of the press itself, is in jeopardy.
The government can exploit a loophole in your current shield law to identify a news organization’s or reporter’s confidential sources by bypassing the them altogether and requesting email transcripts from the Internet or email provider directly. Clearly, the theory behind your Media Confidentiality Act demands that the government should not have the right to do such a thing—but it can nonetheless.
This kind of loophole is not unique to your state, but if this legislation becomes law, you will be the first ones to do anything about it. I’m sure you agree that the government should not have the ability to undermine our nation’s free press. I urge you to sign HB 207 into law.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Bolesjohnb via Wikimedia Commons