Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The federal shield law, a bad idea whose time has gone

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Freedom of the press is not a privilege meted out to a specially ordained priesthood; it is the inalienable right of every American. It belongs to the reporter, PR professional, and reader alike without distinction. The entire debate over the definition of a journalist ignores this not unimportant fact.

Micro Persuasion informs us that there is attempt to revive the proposed federal shield law:

A section of the proposed Free Flow of Information Act advocates that certain bloggers receive a key legal protection that is currently reserved for journalists.

How much damage are we going to permit the anonymice to inflict upon us before we call a halt to this pernicious practice? Almost all anonymous sources are either hype merchants or character assassins. The exceptions to that are either frauds or fabricators.

Upon rare occasions, anonymous sources have altruistic and patriotic motives. But as Daniel Ellsberg and Russell Tice could tell you, reporters can promise to protect your identity, they cannot prevent you being exposed through other means.

If we were really interested in promoting the free flow of information and protecting the public interest, we would pass laws protecting whistle blowers, not journalists.

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