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An Unwieldy Shield

(AP / CBS)
The media isn't exactly beloved by all these days – particularly among those who would like to see several of this year's Pulitzer Prize winners prosecuted for treason. And apparently, Karl Rove isn't thrilled about how journalists cover politics either.

Those sentiments aren't helping journalists too much in Congress, where Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is promoting a national shield law. AJR summarizes the thrust of the bill:

Specter's "Free Flow of Information Act" would set a national standard for the protection of confidential sources. It would compel journalists either to reveal their sources or face contempt-of-court charges only when the court has exhausted all other sources of information, and — most important — when the public's interest in obtaining the information outweighs its interest in protecting confidential sources.
While there are various shield laws and precedents among the states and the District of Columbia, this law would offer some protection for journalists' sources in federal courts, where in the past two years (remember Judy Miller?) according to AJR "more than 30 reporters have been subpoenaed or questioned by federal court officials about their confidential sources."

But anti-media sentiment isn't helping the cause, according to some. AJR notes that on June 29, when the Senate Judiciary Committee failed for the second time to vote on Specter's bill, members of the House of Representatives were voting – 227-183 – to approve a resolution "not only condemning the media but also stating that they 'may have placed the lives of Americans in danger.'" While Specter said he didn't have enough members present to pass his bill, Kevin Goldberg, a First Amendment attorney and counsel for the American Society of Newspaper Editors, told AJR that the "same week the House formally passes a resolution condemning the press … some on Capitol Hill may not want to be handing out privileges to the press." While Goldberg said he "still want[s] to say this will get through the Judiciary Committee," he noted that "with every passing week, you can probably knock 5 percent off its chances of making it out of committee."

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