H.R. 985 Explained; A Journalism Shield Law
I’ve received some emails about this bill and when I originally started to read this bill, I went cross-eyed trying to figure it out until I got to the very end and started with the definitions of the parties involved. I could be completely wrong, but if I am, then I am sure one of my readers will let me know.
There seems to be an internet surge that states this bill is about keeping Barack Obama’s birth certificate a secret and that there are provisions to keep federal employees from being compelled to release documents. All of Bambi’s docs were permanently sealed when he signed E.O. 13489.
I’m not seeing this bill as a way to conceal federal employee’s records, and I have read and re-read this bill at least twenty times. I want to be the voice of reason, and explain how this bill is actually a national journalist shield law, and how the National Press Club endorses this bill, congratulates the House and wants the Senate to pass it also.
So let’s start at the end with the definitions, and I will try to break it down for you.
(4) FEDERAL ENTITY- The term ‘Federal entity’ means an entity or employee of the judicial or executive branch or an administrative agency of the Federal Government with the power to issue a subpoena or issue other compulsory process.
Federal Entity = US Department of Justice (for example)
(5) JOURNALISM- The term ‘journalism’ means the gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public.
Journalist = Jake Tapper (for example)
Now here is the bill, H.R. 985:
Free Flow of Information Act of 2009
To maintain the free flow of information to the public by providing conditions for the federally compelled disclosure of information by certain persons connected with the news media.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘Free Flow of Information Act of 2009’.
SEC. 2. COMPELLED DISCLOSURE FROM COVERED PERSONS.
(a) Conditions for Compelled Disclosure- In any matter arising under Federal law, a Federal entity may not compel a covered person to provide testimony or produce any document related to information obtained or created by such covered person as part of engaging in journalism, unless a court determines by a preponderance of the evidence, after providing notice and an opportunity to be heard to such covered person–
I am not actually going to quote anymore from this bill as it becomes very redundant, but I will share this with you.
WASHINGTON (Map) – WASHINGTON, April 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The National Press Club commends the House for passing legislation that would protect reporters from having to reveal their anonymous sources to government officials, except under extraordinary circumstances. The Club urges the Senate to pass this legislation, so President Obama can then sign it into law.
“It is past time that reporters have a national shield against government attempts to learn the identities of anonymous sources,” said NPC President Donna Leinwand, a reporter with USA Today. “Unless reporters can withhold the names of sources on occasion, the press cannot do its job as well. If reporters cannot protect sources, it will chill their ability to shine a light on decisions and actions the government is trying to keep secret from the public — actions about which the public has a right to know.”
Shield laws exist in 34 states and the District of Columbia, but there is no national shield. In its absence, judges have increasingly forced journalists to disclose their anonymous sources.
“If allowed to continue, this trend could frighten potential sources who might otherwise provide reporters with critical information the entire society needs to know,” Leinwand said.
Once again, I do not think obtaining a long form birth certificate for the resident is actually going to help, rather obtaining his college records will tell the tale of who and what he is.