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Kansas became the 38th state to pass a state shield law for reporters today when Gov. Mark Parkinson signed the pending legislation, The Associated Press reported.
The law will take effect upon publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
"Kansas now joins the mainstream when it comes to recognizing a journalist's right to protect sources," said Lucy A. Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.The District of Columbia also has a shield law.
"It's unfortunate the law was not in force over the past four months. It might have prevented award-winning Dodge City reporter Claire O'Brien from being found in contempt of court and later fired by her employer when she ran into difficulty protecting a confidential source," she continued.
The Kansas Press Association and other press allies had previously been pushing for a shield law in the state for nearly a decade.
Gov. Parkinson in a statement said, "While we understand the need for information under extraordinary circumstances, we must allow journalists to perform their jobs without fear of prosecution and continue bringing the news home to Kansans."
Under the new law, a party seeking disclosure of a reporter's newsgathering materials or confidential sources must show in court that the information is material and relevant to the controversy for which the disclosure is sought; could not be obtained by alternate means after exercising due diligence; and is of a compelling interest.
The definition of journalism in the new law also includes "online journal[s] in the regular business of newsgathering and disseminating news or information to the public," in addition to traditional publications and broadcasts. Judges could construe that definition to cover unpaid writers of blogs and student journalists.