August 9, 2013
California Senator Dianne Feinstein has proposed an amendment to the Media Shield Law – an irrelevant law ignoring protection already afforded by the First Amendment – that would limit the law’s protection only to “real reporters,” not bloggers and other upstart alternative media types.
A real reporter, declared Madame Feinstein during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, is “a salaried agent” of a media company like the New York Times or ABC News, not a shoestring operation with volunteers and writers who are not paid.
Feinstein voiced her concern “that the current version of the bill would grant a special privilege to people who aren’t really reporters at all, who have no professional qualifications,” like bloggers and citizen journalists.
Last week, Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, worried the Shield Law, if passed, would be used to protect whistleblowers and others who ferret out government corruption.
“The world has changed. We’re very careful in this bill to distinguish journalists from those who shouldn’t be protected, WikiLeaks and all those, and we’ve ensured that,” Schumer said. “But there are people who write and do real journalism, in different ways than we’re used to. They should not be excluded from this bill.”
The bill moving through Congress would require the Justice Department to notify reporters it decides to monitor. The law would allow Justice Department officials to delay notice for a period of 45 days. In addition, it would permit the DOJ to ask for an extension of 45 days.
In May, it was learned that the Justice Department had illegally seized the phone records of Associated Press journalists over a two month period. Obama’s Justice Department did not provide notice or a court-issued warrant prior to violating the confidentiality of the journalists.
In response to criticism of the illegal surveillance of journalists, Justice Department boss Eric Holder presented rule changes to the White House in July. The changes will require that journalists involved in “ordinary news-gathering activities” cannot be served with a warrant connected to their own investigative work unless the journalist in question is the subject of a criminal investigation.
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