Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) today urged party leaders to schedule floor consideration of legislation to enact a qualified federal media shield law, which has been stalled in the Senate since last year. The Free Flow of Information Act was favorably reported to the Senate by the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 4, 2007.
Leahy and Specter sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requesting time for floor debate on the legislation, which would establish a federal qualified reporters' privilege to protect the exchange of information between journalists and confidential sources. The House of Representatives last year passed similar legislation by a veto-proof majority. Opposition from the Department of Justice and the White House has stymied Senate consideration of the bill. Leahy and Specter have been urging the Senate to take up the measure.
"The bipartisan majority support in the House and in the Senate Judiciary Committee demonstrates that federal shield legislation deserves floor time and we urge you to promptly take up the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007, S.2035," wrote Leahy and Specter.
Last month, a former USA Today reporter was held in contempt of court for refusing to reveal confidential sources cited in two articles written in 2002, and she is now facing fines of $500 to $5,000 a day. In recent years, dozens of reporters have been questioned by federal prosecutors about their sources.
The legislation is supported by a wide array of media organizations including the Newspaper Association of America, the Associated Press, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, The New York Times Company, The Washington Post, the New England Press Association, the Vermont Press Association, and the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.