Much is at stake in journalist-shield bill by Gene Policinski

Original, August 21, 2008 Statesman Journal

At present, there’s no guaranteed protection in federal courtrooms for journalists who accept confidential information from such sources. Federal prosecutors and judges have shown an increased willingness to pursue whistleblowers’ identities, particularly in cases involving terrorism or claims of national security.

Such high-profile cases dominate headlines. But we also should be concerned about the potential to encourage or chill those who come forward on less-than-national-survival matters ā€” issues such as drinking water or food safety, public-health statistics, fraud or abuse in road-building or errant law enforcement policies or practices, to name but a few.

The Senate proposal ā€” like most compromises ā€” offers something for many and likely completely satisfies none. The legislation does not shield spies, terrorists, crooks or eyewitnesses to criminal acts. Nor does the protection from subpoena apply in cases where officials can show there is imminent danger of death, kidnapping or serious injury.

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