Target: U.S. Senate
Goal: Support journalists and their First Amendment rights to keep their confidential sources secret.
Without freedom of speech, the United States wouldn’t be the land of the free and the home of the brave. If journalists couldn’t report freely on scandals and problems within our society, especially our government, our society as a whole would be one that suffers because of the lack of transparency. Government would go unchecked, law-breaking would be hidden, and public interest issues would most certainly stay hidden.
For this reason, 48 out of our 50 states have shield laws. These protect journalists from revealing their sources when under scrutiny by law enforcement. However, there is no federal shield law protecting them from the Department of Justice. For some journalists, this has become a huge problem. As USA Today reports, ‘In one leak investigation, the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed records for 21 phone lines of Associated Press reporters and editors. And in a request for a search warrant for the e-mails of Fox News reporter James Rosen, the Justice Department said there was ‘probable cause’ that the journalist had violated the Espionage Act — by simply doing his job.’ This is just one example of the Justice Department overreaching its bounds and attempting to require journalists to reveal confidential sources, or face jail time.
Journalists shouldn’t have to worry about facing jail time or revealing a source, they should be protected under federal law. And if a newly proposed law passes, they won’t have to. The Free Flow of Information Act is designed to protect journalists against the overreaches of the Justice Department. It has just been approved by a Senate panel, and in the next step it will be voted on by the full Senate. This law outlines exactly who a journalist is, and specifically states that journalists can only be required to reveal their sources after proper checks and balances have been put into place. It also sets an exception in cases of terrorism or national security, in order to properly protect the American people.
Please tell the Senate to pass this law protecting our journalists and ensuring the free flow of information.
Dear U.S. Senate,
Due to recent overreaches by the U.S. Department of Justice, it is of utmost importance that a federal law protecting journalists is passed. It is completely unacceptable in the U.S., where one of our foremost values is freedom of speech, that the Attorney General and highest levels of government have been requiring journalists responsible for leaks to either reveal their sources or face jail time. Obviously, state laws do not do enough to protect our journalists from the federal government.
A newly proposed law, the Free Flow of Information Act, is just the solution to this problem. The law outlines exactly who qualifies as a journalist, which is something that hasn’t been explicitly stated before. This is very important, because then there cannot be any argument as to who is truly acting as a journalist. The law gives the power to subpoena a journalist to a judge, not the Attorney General, and in doing so requires checks and balances and ensures that the justice department isn’t overreaching their bounds. Maybe most importantly, it outlines when journalists are not protected – when the classified information they are holding pertains to terrorism or national security.
I support this new law, and ask that you pass it to protect America’s journalists, and the free flow of information to American citizens.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Kathleen Kirby