Easy call on the Rogue this week—the 43 Republicans in the U.S. Senate whose votes last week stalled the Federal Media Shield Law. That bill would give journalists the right not to reveal their sources in federal court (except in the interest of national security).
Oregon and almost every other state have state versions of the proposed federal legislation. But Clint Brewer, president of the national Society for Professional Journalists, says a federal bill is needed (“Shields Up,” WW, May 9, 2007) because it “is the final step in protecting confidential sources in federal cases and the public’s right to know.”
The bill got 51 votes, putting it short of the 60 needed to end a Republican-led filibuster. Republicans voting no (for a complete list, go to spj.org/shieldlaw-stall.asp) say they wanted to save time before Congress’ August recess for discussion on another bill that would increase domestic oil and gas production by expanding drilling.
But that’s B.S. beyond the specious argument that our energy crunch can be solved with another derrick. A similar version of the proposed federal media shield passed 391-28 in October with bipartisan support in the House.
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) says he voted for the bill last week because “Congress should extend this important shield to the federal courts.” (Oregon’s other senator, Democrat Ron Wyden, also voted for the measure.)
It is unlikely that federal shield legislation will be revived this session because of the busy fall calendar before the election, says Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
Before you accuse us of self-interested navel gazing, know that the federal shield proposal also won support from 42 state attorneys general, including Oregon’s Hardy Myers. They say the shield is essential to protect reporters who are increasingly being asked to hand over sources to federal prosecutors.
The Rogue Desk couldn’t agree more.