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June 5, 2013

THEIR VIEW: Opinions from other newspapers for June 5

Recent editorials from Indiana newspapers. Distributed by The Associated Press.

 

Congressional delegation needs to support federal shield law

 

For whistleblowers and journalists who wish to expose government secrets and wrongdoing, the past four years have not been kind at the federal level.

After promising transparency, the Obama administration has been perhaps the most aggressive in history in punishing leaks; its posture caught the nation’s attention in May with the revelation the Justice Department had subpoenaed phone records of Associated Press reporters and obtained the emails of Fox News reporter James Rosen.

Now, it appears the overreach may have been just the wake-up call Washington needed.

The scandal has revived the Free Flow of Information Act — the media shield law — that passed the House in 2009 only to fall to a Senate filibuster. The White House has thrown its support behind a new version in the Senate, and there is bipartisan backing for heightened First Amendment protection in some form. The Justice Department, long an opponent of shield laws, has been chastened enough by the latest bad news that it now appears open to the proposal.

It’s long past time for a federal shield law to be enacted, one similar to measures in place in nearly every state, including Indiana. The federal law would protect journalists in most cases from being forced to reveal the identities of confidential sources or to turn over unpublished material to authorities.

Settling on details of the proposal will be a challenge. The bill in the Senate, for example, defines “journalist” more broadly than the one in the House, which does not include student practitioners and others who do not earn income from their efforts. Many students have produced admirable public service journalism and deserve protection. The legislation also needs to acknowledge the rise of citizen journalism in recent years.

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