On October 16, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would protect news reporters from being sent to jail for refusing to reveal their sources. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, saying that it would lead to leaks of classified information, threatening national security.
The bill was introduced after several big cases this year in which prosecutors tried to force reporters to reveal confidential sources of news stories, threatening to throw them in jail if they did not comply.
Supporters of the bill say that confidential sources are crucial to maintaining freedom of the press, guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution. Potential sources will be less likely to report wrongdoing, supporters say, if the reporters they are talking to cannot protect them.
Opponents of the bill say that it will make it more difficult to investigate acts of terrorism and other threats to national security. The bill does have a provision, though, stating that reporters must turn over information if it could prevent a terrorist attack, or if a court decides that the information is needed to protect national security.
- House passes measure to protect reporters
Report on the legislation. Includes the point of view of both the supporters and the opponents of the bill. (Source: Reuters, October 17, 2007)
- House passes federal shield law
Report on the bill from the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press. (Source: RCFP, October 16, 2007)
- First Amendment
American Library Association’s link to information about the First Amendment. Includes the text of the amendment itself, quotes regarding the First Amendment, and links that cover issues surrounding freedom of speech and press. (Source: American Library Association, 2007)