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From the Fall 2007 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 13. A head-to-head comparison between key provisions…

From the Fall 2007 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 13.

A head-to-head comparison between key provisions in the House and Senate versions of the Free Flow of Information Act:

 

Who the shield law would protect:

 

House: Any “person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person’s livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.”

 

Senate: Any person engaged in “the regular gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public.”

 

What the shield would protect:

 

House: Any testimony or document “related to information obtained or created by such covered person as part of engaging in journalism.”

 

Senate: Any “information identifying a source who provided information under a promise or agreement of confidentiality” or “any records, communications data, documents, or information that a covered person obtained or created as part of engaging in journalism and upon a promise or agreement that such records, communication data, documents, or information would be confidential.”

 

 

When the shield law’s protections would apply:

 

Both the House and the Senate bills would protect covered parties any time any federal entity attempts to compel covered information from a covered party in any proceeding or in connection with any issue arising under federal law.

 

Exceptions to when the shield law would apply:

 

House: The House version of the bill provides exceptions where a journalist would be forced to identify a confidential source if disclosure of the identity of the source is (1) necessary to prevent, or to identify a perpetrator of, an act of terrorism or other significant and specified harm to national security; (2) necessary to prevent imminent death or significant bodily harm; (3) necessary to identify a person who has disclosed trade secrets, individually identifiable health information or nonpublic personal information; (4) essential to identify a person who disclosed properly classified information and such unauthorized disclosure has caused or will cause significant harm to national security.

Senate: The Senate version of the bill provides exceptions where a journalist would be forced to identify a confidential source if (1) it is reasonably necessary to stop, a specific case of death, kidnapping or substantial bodily harm; (2) doing so would assist in preventing a specific case of terrorism against the United States or significant harm to national security.

Both the House and Senate versions also provide an exception where a reporter is an eyewitness to alleged criminal or tortuous conduct. — MP