Reporter's Privilege

This section covers the use of subpoenas to force journalists to disclose their confidential news sources and unpublished information. Shield laws exist in forty states; if a reporter isn't covered by a shield law, there may still be a constitutional privilege that helps protect sources and information. This section also covers official attempts to seize journalists' work product and documents without a warrant.

New York shield law protects media in MLB suit

J.C. Derrick | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | October 17, 2011
October 17, 2011

Major League Baseball filed a complaint against an insurance company to find out who leaked confidential financial information to the Associated Press and, but did not include the news organizations in the filing.

New York's shield law includes absolute protection for journalists' confidential sources, leaving the league without an option to pursue the two organizations that published the financial records of six baseball franchises in August of last year.

Risen must testify about date, use of quotes, book proposal

Kristen Rasmussen | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | October 12, 2011
October 12, 2011

James Risen must testify about non-protected matters in the upcoming trial of an alleged ex-CIA leaker, per a court order allowing the New York Times reporter to keep his confidential source secret but requiring him to verify the accuracy of his reporting, according to a POLITICO article.

Michigan court charges reality TV producer with perjury

Jamie Schuman | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | October 7, 2011
October 7, 2011

A photographer for a reality television show who filmed a police raid where a 7-year-old girl was killed has been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying under oath about the May 2010 incident.

Number of states with shield law climbs to 40

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In April, West Virginia became the 40th state, along with the District of Columbia, to provide a statute that shields journalists from subpoenas. The law took effect on June 10.

In Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed on June 16 an extension of the state’s shield law that will keep protections for journalists in the state on the books until 2013.

And in Arkansas, Gov. Mike Beebe signed an amendment to the state’s shield law that extended the privilege to include television and Internet reporters.

Two recent cases highlight tension in applying shield law to new media

Will extending the reporter's privilege too far weaken shield laws?
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Aaron Mackey


AP Photo

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe signed in March an amendment to the state's shield law, extending the privilege to television and Internet reporters.

Federal shield law introduced in House once more

J.C. Derrick | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | September 19, 2011
September 19, 2011

In the latest step in a seven-year effort to pass a federal shield law, Republican Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana has re-introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would provide protections for journalists in federal courts.

Risen files opposition to motion to expand his testimony

J.C. Derrick | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | September 15, 2011
September 15, 2011

A New York Times reporter and an alleged CIA leaker fired back in court on Wednesday at the prosecution's request that a federal judge reconsider her decision to protect the reporter from disclosing his confidential source in court.

Both James Risen and Jeffrey Sterling believe further review of the issue is not necessary and filed documents opposing the prosecution's motion for "clarification and reconsideration" of the judge's prior order, which largely quashed a subpoena for Risen's testimony.

Reporters Committee exec director warns of chilling effect as government tracks reporters' sources without subpoenas

Press Release | September 12, 2011
September 12, 2011

Federal subpoenas of reporters could wane as the administration finds other ways to track down their confidential sources, writes Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Executive Director Lucy Dalglish in the latest edition of The News Media & The Law.

Student journalists' email must be turned over to state

J.C. Derrick | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | September 9, 2011
September 9, 2011

An Illinois judge ruled earlier this week that while the state's shield law covers student journalists, more than 500 email messages between a Northwestern University professor and his students investigating a 33-year-old murder case must still be turned over to state prosecutors.

Government renews effort to expand Risen testimony

J.C. Derrick | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | September 7, 2011
September 7, 2011

Federal prosecutors launched another offensive last week in the battle to force a New York Times reporter to testify in the upcoming trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, claiming he plans to defend himself by blaming others for leaked information.