CarriageTowneNews.com, Kingston, NH

Z_CNHI News Service

September 27, 2013

EDITORIALS: Shield law needed; No more excuses for inaction on global warming

Shield law must provide broad protections

(The Mankato Free Press / Mankato, Minn.)

On the heels of revelations that the Justice Department had seized the phone records of Associated Press reporters and had traced the emails and calls of a Fox News reporter, Congress seems willing to provide federal protections for journalists and their sources.

Although many states have so-called “shield laws” to protect journalists and their sources, there is no such protection from federal subpoenas or court orders forcing reporters to reveal confidential information or sources.

Because the Supreme Court has never ruled that the First Amendment protects journalists from being compelled to identify confidential information, the federal government has at times gone after journalists to learn the identities of their sources.

Under proposed legislation in Congress, journalists would not have to comply with subpoenas or court orders forcing them to talk, unless a judge first determines a crime has occurred and the government has exhausted all other alternatives. Final bills could be approved by the end of the year.

While there is general support for a federal shield law in Congress and by journalism organizations, a key sticking point has been the seemingly simple question of defining “journalist.”

The draft bill defines a journalist as someone who has a “primary intent to investigate events and procure material” to inform the public. All agree a reporter working for a newspaper, news service or broadcast outlet would be protected. Harder to pin down is whether bloggers and others who use the Internet to disseminate news would be protected.

Some Senators would like to broaden the definition of journalists under the law while still others would like to narrow it even more, fearing that too-broad a definition could protect groups like WikiLeaks.

The existing language in the bill seems to do a good job of balancing various concerns, providing a fairly broad protection to traditional and new journalists without getting tangled up in minutia. And the legislation would provide a safety valve in tricky cases, giving federal judges the discretion to extend protection to people who might not meet the exact criteria of a “journalist” under the bill’s definition.

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  • Jo Ann Hughes, 79

    Sandown, NH — Jo Ann (Phelps) Hughes of Sandown, New Hampshire passed away on Thursday, March 27, 2014, surrounded by all of her children at home. She was born in Little Bend Kentucky, to Beatrice (Shepherd) Phelps and John (Cat) Phelps in 1934. Jo Ann was predeceased by brothers, Marcus Phelps, Johnny Phelps, Forrest Phelps and sisters, Juanita Phelps, and Jeanette (Phelps) Vincent. She is survived by brother, Donald Quiggins of Georgia; sisters, Geneva (Phelps) Stanley of Kentucky, and Frances (Phelps) Bratcher of Tennessee who had just visited Jo Ann in September of 2013.

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