The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press urged passage of a proposed reporter’s shield law in comments filed this week with Wisconsin Legislature’s Committee on Judiciary and Ethics.
Assembly Bill 333 would provide an absolute privilege for confidential sources and information and a qualified privilege for all other information.
“The Wisconsin Legislature should be applauded for considering an absolute privilege for confidential sources,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish.
“The law would provide much of the protection needed for journalists to carry out their essential role of informing the people of Wisconsin,” the comments said. “By protecting the news media’s ability to report the news, the legislature can ensure that important issues continue to enter the public discourse and preserve the proper functioning of the democracy.”
The Reporters Committee also offered three recommendations to the legislature: to broadly define who is a covered news person, to make clear that the privilege belongs to the reporter and not the source, and to include an interlocutory appeal provision like neighboring Minnesota, that would allow reporters an immediate appeal of any court orders compelling them to testify.
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.