Columbia, Mo -- The American Society of News Editors commends the Senate Judiciary Committee for passing S 987, the Free Flow of Information Act, on Thursday, Sept. 12, by a 13-5 vote. Thursday's favorable vote by the committee is the product of incredible effort, dedication and compromise by all those involved: both senators on the committee, Senate leadership and media organizations, and companies seeking a federal reporter's privilege.
We believe this bill, if it becomes law, will live up to its name and improve the Free Flow of Information. It will help sources who wish to remain anonymous before bringing important information to light by allowing them to speak more freely to reporters on matters of public concern without fear that a reporter will be forced to reveal their source's identity, and it will limit those situations in which the government can subpoena communication records to uncover a source's identity. It will provide more certainty to those reporters by lessening the guesswork they must engage in before risking their personal liberty or financial interests to bring stories to the public. But, most importantly, it will not threaten public safety or national security. S 987, as passed by the Judiciary Committee, is a reasonable balance between the public's right to know and the government's or other court litigants' ability to fully and fairly access information they need to fulfill their investigatory or litigation needs.
We specifically appreciate the hard work of those on the committee, including Chairman Patrick Leahy and Sens. Charles Schumer, Dianne Feinstein and Richard Durbin, in resolving their differences regarding the definition of a "covered person" (now "covered journalist"), which had previously been an impediment to the bill's passage. We hope these four senators will now work with Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to lead the other 94 senators in finally passing S 987.
ASNE and others have worked for more than a decade toward passage of a federal reporter's shield bill. In that time, the House of Representatives has twice passed their own version of the Free Flow of Information Act (once unanimously). This legislation is long overdue for its first vote by the full Senate. We urge the Senate to quickly schedule that vote and pass the Free Flow of Information Act.