Last chance on federal shield law?

ASNE is urging its members to contact their Senators during the August recess to urge passage of the long-stalled "Free Flow of Information Act." Click the link below to learn more about what you can do to help move the bill to the Senate floor for final passage.

We are at a crucial point in our longtime quest for a federal shield law. S 448, the Senate version of legislation officially known as the “Free Flow of Information Act” was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 11, 2009 but still has not been brought to the Senate floor for a vote (the House passed a separate version, HR 985, by voice vote over a year ago). Congress' upcoming August recess provides an excellent opportunity to reach out to your Senator, urging him or her to request Senate leadership to: (1) allot floor time for discussion of the Free Flow of Information Act, (2) support a “cloture” vote that would end debate on the bill and force an up or down vote and, (3) when that vote occurs, vote “Yes” on S 448.

The legislative calendar for 2010 is rapidly filling up. There is a three week period in September, after the August recess but before Congress focuses its attention on the crucial elections on November, where we hope to finally get a vote on S 448. If we do not get the shield law passed this year, there exists a very real danger that potential changes in the Senate could doom similar efforts in the near future.

Many of you will be meeting with your Senators when they are home during the August recess. Others will certainly have the opportunity to interact with your Senators, perhaps through your editorial pages. Should you choose to include this issue in the conversation, you can find plenty of background information on the shield law on the Free Flow of Information Act page (on ASNE's website. Specifically, we have a new set of “Talking Points” available which provide the most accurate and up-to-date information about the bill.

As you are surely aware, the shield law movement is now in its sixth year. The version of S 448 that was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee is the product of several years of negotiation between the bill's supporters and Congressional members and staff. We have listened to concerns regarding threats to the administration of justice or national security; we have explained how the Free Flow of Information Act is limited in scope, does not threaten these interests in any way and, in fact, is likely to make our make our country safer in the long run. Years of scrutiny, debate, compromise and redrafting have produced a bill that we believe has more than enough support to pass. Please help ASNE and the more than seventy other media organizations and companies supporting S 448 convey the message to the Senate that the time for action is now.

ASNE members, if you need any further information regarding the shield law or ASNE's efforts, please do not hesitate to contact ASNE Legal Counsel Kevin M. Goldberg.

Thank you,

Jim Brady
Tim Franklin
ASNE Freedom of Information Committee Co-Chairs