Main | Friday, September 13, 2013

Senate Committee Passes Media Shield Bill That Excludes Some Digital Journalists

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that will protect journalists from being forced to testify about their work. But there's something of a catch.
The new legal protections will not extend to the controversial online website Wikileaks and others whose principal work involves disclosing "primary-source documents … without authorization." Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) insisted on limiting the legal protection to "real reporters" and not, she said, a 17-year-old with his own website. "I can't support it if everyone who has a blog has a special privilege … or if Edward Snowden were to sit down and write this stuff, he would have a privilege. I'm not going to go there," she said. Feinstein introduced an amendment that defines a "covered journalist" as someone who gathers and reports news for "an entity or service that disseminates news and information." The definition includes freelancers, part-timers and student journalists, and it permits a judge to go further and extend the protections to any "legitimate news-gathering activities."
USA Today has more:
The question of just who is a journalist and should merit protection has become much more complex in the digital era, in which bloggers and others who are not traditional reporters engage in journalistic activities. Under the committee's compromise, those covered would include someone who has had an employment relationship with a journalism organization for one year within the past 20 years, or three months within the past five years. Also covered are people with "a substantial track record of freelancing" in the past five years and student journalists.
Matt Drudge is furious.
RELATED: I've been on the staff of Pride Magazine for eleven years, so it appears that I might be covered under the "compromise" and therefore would not be forced to reveal the name of a JMG source.

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