Senate Committee Once More OKs Federal Shield Law

September 25, 2013

The Senate Judiciary Committee on September 12, 2013, approved a bill shielding journalists from being compelled to reveal their confidential sources. Its prospects for enactment look iffy in a Congress noted for gridlock.

The panel approved the bill (S 987, titled "The Free Flow of Information Act of 2013) by a 13-5 vote. Its membership includes 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans.

The bill was similar to legislation that came close to passage in 2009.

Then, as now, a key issue was how to define who gets protection as a journalist. The intervening controversy over Wikileaks only intensified this debate. In the end, though, the Senate panel enlarged the definition of protected journalists to include "someone employed by or in contract with a media outlet for at least one year within the last 20 years or three months within the last five years; someone with a substantial track record of freelancing in the last five years; or a student journalist," according to Politico.