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Inadequate Journalist Shield Law to Trump State Laws.

twitter (104583) writes | about 7 years ago

Censorship 4

The US Free Flow of Information Act has cleared the House Judiciary Committee. It is intended as a shield for confidential sources, but it has severe limitations and loopholes that could undermine the 30 US state laws already on the books.

The US Free Flow of Information Act has cleared the House Judiciary Committee. It is intended as a shield for confidential sources, but it has severe limitations and loopholes that could undermine the 30 US state laws already on the books.

... the definition of a journalist has been narrowed. The modified bill which passed the committee on 2nd August included a provision that limits its protections to those who make "financial gain or livelihood" from their journalism.

[there are] several exceptions regarding terrorism, national security, imminent death and trade secret leaks.

By limiting who's protected, it immediately limits individual free speech and leaves everyone open to intimidation. Would Greg Palast and his non profit or Josh Wolf be covered? Josh Wolf was protected by CA law, but was prosecuted in Federal court to strip him of those protections. This bill would codify that trick.

The other exemptions have already been used for SLAP purposes. A good example is the criminal investigation that has been launched against David Sugar for writing this article. Any law that separates "responsible", aka state licensed, journalists from the rest us tramples the first amendment.

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Interesting conundrum (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about 7 years ago | (#20137529)

So, some "unlicensed" reporter gets wind of a leak of a toxin at a chemical plant and posts about it online. The company gets pissed off, and demands to know who leaked the leak. The company takes the person to court under the new "you're not a real journalist" shield law, and does what, exactly? Send people to testify under oath that they were dumping toxic waste into the community?

Hell, if I somehow ended up in that position, for shits and giggles I'd claim I had no source and that I had thought the whole thing up as a "what if" exercise in disaster response planning that was being misinterpreted, and that any relation to actual persons or events was purely coincidental, and challenge them to prove that I'm lying while performing their own set of contortions around the truth.

Ugly Reality. (1)

twitter (104583) | about 7 years ago | (#20137795)

The company takes the person to court under the new "you're not a real journalist" shield law, and does what, exactly?

The whistle blower is fired, blacklisted and is never able to exercise their profession again.

The Josh Wolf case is more disturbing still. He speculates that the Federal government was more interested in the names of political opponents than it was in actual crimes committed. They wanted the names for various no-fly, no-work, no-rent and no-privacy lists.

I somehow ended up in that position, for shits and giggles I'd claim I had no source and that I had thought the whole thing up as a "what if" exercise...

In that case, you lose all credibility and go to jail. Both of those things eliminate your ability to tell your neighbors things you know are wrong. The whole point of confidential sources is protecting the source while remaining credible, which is a tricky thing to do. This bill would make it impossible for anyone but an "official" reporter to even try, and they can be wiretapped when someone really cares.

Bloggers and other new sources of news are making clear just how controlled and censored broadcast and consolidated publishers have been. These new sources are rich because they are both closer to the truth and less restricted than traditional reporters.

Re:Ugly Reality. (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about 7 years ago | (#20140551)

you lose all credibility and go to jail

Except that to me that seems mutually exclusive. Sure, I wouldn't be able to report very well from jail, but if they succeed in convicting me for telling the truth about their company, I don't see how that hurts my credibility one bit. I guess they could just sue me for slander or libel and claim I was lying about their company, but then they don't get to try to find their leak.

Re:Ugly Reality. (1)

Nevyn (5505) | about 7 years ago | (#20146389)

Errm, why can't they say: "That's untrue, who told you it was". Besides if you don't specifically say in your article that "person(s) inside the company have said ..." then noone will believe the story anyway, as there is nothing to distinguish it from being a hypothetical. At which point you either "lied", and they sue for damages, or they sue because you're a non-real journalist and aren't allowed to report the truth.

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