Supporting a Federal Shield Law for Journalists

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will be considering Senate Bill 448 on Thursday. The Free Flow of Information Act would implement a shield law to protect journalists on the federal level. At the moment, American journalists only have such protections at the state level.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is the ranking member of the committee, and as a journalist and fellow Alabamian, I asked him to support this legislation. I’ve posted the letter below.

September 16, 2009

The Honorable Jeff Sessions
335 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0104

Dear Senator Sessions:

I am writing to ask you to support passage of the Free Flow of Information Act (S. 448) when it comes before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

I have nearly two decades of experience as a journalist, most recently as News Director of Alabama Public Radio in Tuscaloosa. I have been very concerned about a recent trend where government agencies use the federal court system to evade guaranteed journalist protections at the state level.

As an Alabamian currently living in Seoul, South Korea, I now have an even clearer understanding of the importance of the United States’ journalism tradition, protections, and promise. A federal shield law for journalists would be both a practical and symbolic gesture demonstrating the high value America places on freedom of information and on those who gather it.

There are many, many of us who chose journalism because we believe it is a vitally important component of a successful democracy. Please help protect us.

Sincerely,

Butler Cain, Ph.D.
International Journalism and Education Committees,
Society of Professional Journalists

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