Bloggers Beware: The Media Shield Law


“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” Benjamin Franklin

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” John Milton~ Areopagitica

Back in May of this year, our employees in Washington talked about sponsoring a Media Shield bill after Eric Holder’s Justice Department took two months’ worth of Associated Press phone records. The bill was supposed to grant legal protections to journalists. Senators Graham R-SC and Schumer D-NY were at the forefront of proposing to co-sponsor the bill, saying in a joint statement, “The government has a legitimate interest in preventing and investigating leaks of classified information… At the same time, the public has a legitimate interest in a robust free press. This bill strikes a fair and reasonable balance between those interests, and we urge you to join us in advancing it.”

Although many, mostly Republicans, were outraged at the Justice’s actions, and some saw it as an abuse of power, they weren’t quick to jump on board with the bill, saying they’d have to see the details before taking a position on it.

Some readers may remember Sam Janney’s article in June about Lindsey Graham’s obnoxious blunder about whether bloggers would be protected under the bill. It was reported June 5th that Graham, when talking to reporters about the bill said, “Who is a journalist is a question we need to ask ourselves… Is any blogger out there saying anything — do they deserve First Amendment protection? These are the issues of our times.”

Graham is the lead GOP sponsor who was helping to draft the law. A similar law, which failed to pass Congress in 2009, would have given members of the media protection from having to testify in federal cases or providing documents. The question of who is considered a journalist was asked when the failed bill was proposed. In the Columbia Journal Review an article by Clint Helder asked, “Are journalists best defined by the act of reporting (what’s known as a functional definition), or by how they are employed (a status-based definition)?” This was the question Graham was trying to address.

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