A law that would protect journalists from revealing confidential sources is moving forward in the Senate, despite its narrow view of who is a “covered” journalist.
Twitter and Facebook, and most blogs would not be protected, according to the definition included in the bill.
The bill was revived last year after the disclosure that the Justice Department had secretly subpoenaed almost two months’ worth of telephone records for 21 phone lines used by reporters and editors for The Associated Press and secretly used a search warrant to obtain some emails of a Fox News journalist.
The Justice Department took the actions in looking into leaks of classified information to the news organizations. The AP received no advance warning of the subpoena.
Schumer discussed the bill’s provisions and how, if it became law, it might affect journalist Glenn Greenwald, who reported on National Security Agency’s secret surveillance based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
“It’s probably not enough protections to (cover) him, but it’s better than current law,” Schumer said.
The bill’s protections would apply to a “covered journalist,” defined as an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have to have been employed for one year within the last 20 or three months within the last five years.
It would apply to student journalists or someone with a considerable amount of freelance work in the last five years. A federal judge also would have the discretion to declare an individual a “covered journalist” who would be granted the privileges of the law.
The bill also says that information is only privileged if it is disseminated by a news medium, described as “newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, news agency, news website, mobile application or other news or information service (whether distributed digitally or otherwise); news program, magazine or other periodical, whether in print, electronic or other format; or thorough television or radio broadcast … or motion picture for public showing.”
While the definition covers traditional and online media, it draws the line at posts on Twitter, blogs or other social media websites by non-journalists.
The overall bill would protect reporters and news media organizations from being required to reveal the identities of confidential sources, but it does not grant an absolute privilege to journalists.
Why such a restrictive definition of “journalist”? Because anyone can expose wrongdoing by the rich and powerful if they have an internet connection and a confidential source and that’s just too scary for the powers that be. It’s ridiculous to think that just because someone doesn’t get paid to be a “journalist” that this somehow makes them less a legitimate purveyor of news than some MSM hack. This bill is all about controlling the flow of information and managing the sorts of people who are privileged enough to be protected.
The GOP House has their own ideas about “covered” journalists but there, too, the pesky bloggers are not protected. A true media shield law would force the government to compel disclosure of confidential sources from anyone only when national security or the threat of a terrorist attack was involved. Otherwise, as long as the information being disseminated is accurate, it’s not the government’s business.