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This section covers the use of subpoenas to force journalists to disclose their confidential news sources and unpublished information.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.

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

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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

Judge explains decision to quash Risen subpoena

Clara Hogan | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | August 4, 2011
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August 4, 2011

New York Times reporter James Risen will not need to reveal his confidential source in the leak trial of a former CIA officer because the U.S. government failed to show a compelling interest in his testimony and an inability to find the information elsewhere, a federal judge said in an opinion made public Wednesday.

Times reporter won't have to reveal confidential source

Clara Hogan | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | August 1, 2011
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August 1, 2011

A New York Times reporter will not have to reveal a confidential source when he testifies in the trial of a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information, a federal judge ruled late last week regarding one of the highest-profile journalist subpoenas in recent years.

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

Will extending the reporter’s privilege too far weaken shield laws?
Feature
Page Number: 
26

From the Summer 2011 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 26.

Recent developments in New Jersey and Hawaii have sparked debate about who should qualify for the protections of state shield laws and the complications that emerge when trying to extend the reporters privilege to online or independent journalists.

In June, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in Too Much Media v. Hale that a person who posted comments on an online message board did not qualify for the state’s shield law.