From Bernie Lunzer, president of The Newspaper Guild:The Newspaper Guild-CWA is part of a media coalition that is working to pass a federal shield law to protect journalists and their sources.
The Shield Coalition, whose other members include the Newspaper Association of America, is preparing to send a letter to U.S. Senate leadership, but wants to make sure that the groundwork is laid so that the campaign is close to or at the 60 votes to overcome a possible filibuster. The coalition tells us in an email today:
“The YES votes are approximately 33 Democrats and 6 Republicans. The DC team will redouble their efforts, BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP!”
The urgent need for a federal shield law is illustrated by a surge in subpoenas for reporters’ notes and testimony. For example, as reported in a column by media lawyer Jeff Kosseff:
- The lawyer for a former Trenton mayor facing federal corruption charges has issued a subpoena to question a newspaper reporter about the interview of a co-defendant.
- A military judge has ordered CNN and CBS to release unaired interview footage as part of a Naval Academy midshipman’s court-martial on charges of aggravated sexual assault and false statements.
- New York City’s lawyers have subpoenaed a Village Voice reporter for recordings that are part of his investigation into the city’s police department’s manipulation of police reports.
Stopping these attacks on journalistic freedom is essential to the ability to do our jobs, and protects the very essence of our democracy. In fighting to uphold a free press and the First Amendment, none of us should feel we have a conflict of interest.
We need everyone receiving this email to call your senators this week, and we need you to pass this request on to members, friends and family:
458 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
730 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Attached are advocacy documents from the Shield Coalition to help with your understanding of the legislation and the critical need for it (some are Word documents that will automatically download to your computer).
- DOJ blog post 1-30-14
- Journalists Nationwide Face Surge of Subpoenas in Federal and State Courts _ InsideTechMedia
- S987 passed SJC Nov 2013
- Section by Section S 987-SJC passed
- Senate floor talking points Dec 2013 final
- Senate Schumer-Graham Dear Colleague 5 16 13
- Shield alert Jan 2014 header
- Shield blog post 1-23-14
- Shield Senate Floor Vote Count 1-31-14
Your swift response is greatly appreciated.
Image source: Steve Rhodes via photopin cc
Senator Bennet signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill back in May, but he needs to be reminded of the importance of the bill and asked to advocate in favor of the improved law. Senator Udall has not taken a position on the bill yet.