Shield law amended to protect unpublished information
MINNESOTA–A bill amending the state’s shield law to provide greater protection for unpublished information became law in early April.
The bill rewrites the state’s existing shield law to make clear that unpublished notes and photographs and unaired videotape are protected from subpoenas. Though the old version of the shield law provided some protection for journalists’ confidential sources, courts in recent years reinterpreted the law to provide little protection for unpublished information.
Though the bill clarifies the news media’s protection from subpoenas, it does not provide an absolute defense against forced disclosure of confidential sources or unpublished information. If a journalist possesses information critical to a criminal prosecution and that information cannot be obtained from an alternative source, the journalist may have to comply with a subpoena.
“Minnesota’s [old] shield law [was] one of the weakest in the country,” said Mark Anfinson, a lawyer for the Minnesota Press Association. “The [new law will] do nothing more than bring Minnesota back into the national mainstream.”
The bill became law in early April after the deadline for Gov. Arne Carlson to veto the bill passed. According to Anfinson, the governor “had some serious reservations about the bill” but decided not to veto it because of the “overwhelming majorities that voted in favor of the bill in both the House and the Senate.” (HF 1668; SF 1480)