It is lamentable that the U.S. Supreme Court recently chose not to clarify whether journalists have a right to protect their confidential sources.
New York Times reporter James Risen, a journalism graduate from Northwestern University who as a young reporter worked for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, had asked the court to revisit a 42-year-old ruling that raised questions about journalists’ ability to shield the names of people who tell them government secrets. The court rejected Risen’s appeal without comment.
Indiana’s shield law is one of the strongest of the 31 states that have adopted such protections. Our shield law also has enjoyed strong support among elected officials who acknowledge the importance of freedom of the press.
In fact, in 2005 former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and Mike Pence, at the time a representative in the U.S. House, introduced the Free Flow of Information Act — a federal shield law. Though it should have been adopted it wasn’t.
Enactment of federal legislation would extend protection to all 50 states and give journalists added assurance that they can stick to their pledges to uphold the confidentiality of sources in both state and federal court.
Being able to freely access information is critical for reporters to do their jobs. Sometimes that job may require a journalist to keep the identity of a source confidential.
A federal shield law is an important link to protecting the public’s right to information. Congress must adopt one as soon as possible.
— South Bend Tribune