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Grayson Amendment Paves Path for First Federal Shield Law




Cheers Erupt as House Votes to Protect Journalists, Reporters from Revealing Confidential Sources

Grayson Amendment Paves Path for First Federal Shield Law

Cheers Erupt as House Votes to Protect Journalists, Reporters from Revealing Confidential Sources

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Late last night, Congressman Alan Grayson (FL-09) introduced legislation to protect reporters and journalists from being compelled to reveal confidential sources. Grayson’s measure was added to H.R. 4660, the ‘Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act’, and prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to force journalists to testify about information or sources.

“The purpose of this amendment is to raise the possibility of a Federal shield law that corresponds to shield law already in place in 49 States, but not at the level of the Federal Government,” Grayson explained.“A shield law is legislation designed to protect a reporter's privilege or the right of news reporters to refuse to testify as to information and sources of information obtained during a news gather and dissemination process. In short, a reporter should not be forced to reveal his or her source.”

“I think this is a very important principle…that springs from the foundation of our law. The Constitution and the First Amendment provide for freedom of speech and of the press. It is completely incongruous to say we have freedom of the press, but the Federal Government can subpoena your sources and put them and you in prison--you, if you don't comply.

As evidence of the need for a shield law, Grayson pointed to the case of Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter who served 85 days in jail for refusing to reveal a confidential source. “At this point under current law, journalists are in a quandary. They realize the need to protect their sources. That right is recognized in 49 States, but it is not codified at the Federal level.”

“This is something that should have been handled perhaps years, if not decades ago. It falls upon us tonight, at this late hour, to try to handle it ourselves,” said Grayson, who demanded a recorded vote on his proposal. “There have already been hearings. There has been plenty of draft legislation. It is hard enough to get anything voted on around here. It is time to vote on this.”

“The reporters in this country have waited long enough. It is time to be fair and show fealty to the First Amendment and to pass this amendment tonight.”

Shortly after midnight, the House approved Grayson’s proposal in a 225-183 vote. Audible cheers erupted upon passage of the amendment.

Congressman Alan Grayson represents Florida’s 9th Congressional District, which includes Osceola County, as well as parts of Orange and Polk counties. He previously served as the U.S. Representative for Florida's 8th Congressional District in the 111th Congress.