The United States Senate Judiciary Committee voted today to endorse a bill that would give journalists a qualified privilege from having to testify in court about their confidential sources and to disclose their news gathering materials. In a 15-2 vote, the committee sent the legislation, S. 2035, to the full Senate, where it is expected to face stiff opposition from Republican senators and the Bush administration. Presiding over the committee session, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) remarked:
The time for needless delay of this legislation has passed. We simply have no idea how many newsworthy stories have gone unwritten and unreported out of fear that a reporter would be forced to reveal a source, or face jail time.
A similar bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 2102, has been awaiting floor action since August 1. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a speech earlier today that she would bring the bill up for a vote by the end of the year. "This is fundamental to our democracy and fundamental to the security of our country," Pelosi told a meeting of the Associated Press Managing Editors.
The current Senate bill, which contains exemptions for eyewitness accounts of criminal conduct and terrorist and national security information, would extend its protections to persons "engaged in journalism," which section 8(5) of the bill defines as follows: read more »