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What the shield bill says

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From the Summer 2007 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 17. Types of proceedings covered: Both criminal…

From the Summer 2007 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 17.

Types of proceedings covered: Both criminal and civil cases

Who would be covered?

The bill covers any “person engaged in journalism.” There is no requirement that an individual be a professional, paid journalist; the bill defines journalism as “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.”

Protection for confidential sources:

Journalists would be protected by the privilege unless one of these situations exists:

(1) the information is needed to prevent “imminent and actual” or “significant and specified” harm to national security,”

(2) disclosure is necessary to prevent “imminent death” or “significant” bodily injury,

(3) the information relates to the leak of a significant trade secret, or

(4) there is a leak of health information, or personal or financial information, revealed in violation of existing federal laws.

The court must then balance the interest in disclosure against the interest in the free flow of information to the public in order to find that the privilege was overcome.

Protection for newsgathering materials:

If the information sought does not involve a confidential source, the qualified privilege could be overcome if other sources of the information had been exhausted, the information was essential to a case and the interest in disclosure outweighed the interest in the free flow of information. ES