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Bipartisan bill aims to punish hired journalists

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    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Newsgathering         Feb. 22, 2005    

Bipartisan bill aims to punish hired journalists

  • A proposed bill would require jail time or fines for journalists who do not disclose payments to promote legislation.

Feb. 22, 2005 — A bill aiming to punish journalists who receive government payments to promote policies was introduced by Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.).

“The ‘Sunshine in Journalism Act of 2005’ would require that any journalist, print or broadcast, who receives federal taxpayer dollars to promote, oppose, or comment upon legislation, proposed legislation, or administration policies, fully disclose the amount with 30 days,” Keller said on his Web site. Any individual violator would have to pay a maximum of $5,000 in fines and/or spend a maximum of 30 days in jail. The fine would be boosted to a maximum of $10,000 for any organization that violated the act.

The bill follows disclosure of the Department of Education’s $240,000 payment to reporter Armstrong Williams for support of the “No Child Left Behind Act.” The payment resulted in a Presidential order to ban all payments from cabinet agencies to promote legislation through the news media.

The bill also defines print and broadcast journalists. A print journalist is “a person employed by a newspaper, magazine, or other publication which is in one or more issues each year in interstate commerce . . . devoted to the dissemination of news and editorial opinion.” A broadcast journalist is “a person employed by a radio, television, or cable network channel which broadcasts . . . news and editorial opinion.”

Co-sponsors of the measure are Reps. William Clay (D-Mo.) and Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio). It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

(H.R. 649)AB

© 2005 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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