Federal Shield Laws

Topics: First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Supreme Court of the United States, Law Pages: 4 (1475 words) Published: November 16, 2008
Dr. Thornton
Law and Ethics of Communication
Federal Shield Laws
There is a definite need for a federal shield law, to protect journalists from being held in contempt for not revealing their sources. A shield law is a statute that protects journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources, from which information has been received. There are state shield laws in place right new for many states within the United States, however there are 15 states in the United States that have not yet adopted any type of shield law protecting against being held in contempt (Shield Laws). There are some great reasons why a federal shield law is a good idea. One main reason for the law is to create a set of rules for reporters to follow when gathering information for a story. These rules would help keep reporters from being held in contempt for not abiding by subpoenas. Another aspect of the shield law is that it would stop some confusion that occurs with the many state statues. The need for a federal shield law is there, but the question is how much should journalists be protected? Should journalists be able to gather information and be completely protected when the need arises for government officials to know the source of this information? Or, should journalists be forced to comply with the government and hand over all sources and findings?

There are many different state statutes regarding the confidentiality of a source. A problem with these statutes is that they cause a lot of confusion. Does the statute apply for a crime that occurs in that state, is the statute pertaining to where the person lives who wrote the story, or does it apply to the state that the confidential source resides? In the past few years, the internet has become a main source of information for our citizens. Journalists who write and post on the internet can also have confidential sources and this causes some major confusion when the stories written are from many...

Cited: A Flurry of Subpoenas. Retrieved 2 Nov. 2008

Pember, Don R. Mass Media Law. McGraw-Hill, 2007
Reporters and Federal Subpoenas. Retrieved 7 Nov. 2008

Shield Laws in the United States. Retrieved 26 Oct. 2008

The First Amendment and Reporter’s Privilege. Retrieved 26 Oct. 2008
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