Testimony on Shield Bill in Massachusetts

Yesterday our very own Mary-Rose Papandrea, a professor at Boston College Law School, testified before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary at the Massachusetts State House regarding a proposed shield law. For most of the hearing, the questions focused on the scope of the privilege (the bill proposes an absolute privilege for the identity of sources and a qualified privilege for newsgathering materials) and not on who would be covered under the privilege.

However, near the end of the hearing, Senator Robert Creedon expressed concern about extending the privilege to bloggers, describing them as "loose cannons." Papandrea, together with Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, responded that the term "bloggers" is ill-defined and includes many journalists from the mainstream media. Given that it would be unwise to place internet communications outside the scope of any shield law, Papandrea and Dalglish argued that the better answer would be to define those covered under the law by their function - i.e., whether they are disseminating information to the general public. Papandrea also pointed out that the proposed shield law would not immunize bloggers - or anyone else - from libel suits, which appeared to be Senator Creedon's primary concern.

You can track the status of the Massachusetts "Free Flow of Information Act" at OpenMass.gov.

UPDATE: Robert Ambrogi has posted a detailed report on what happened at the hearing.
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