‘Major Flaws’ in Media Shield Law, Group Says

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a draft of the so-called “media shield law” that’s woefully inadequate in protecting sources, according to Reporters Without Borders.
     The Paris-based nonprofit issued a statement Thursday blasting committee Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer for crafting a bill that redefines journalism to exclude bloggers and other news providers.
     “In its current form, the shield law would not have prevented the Department of Justice’s seizure of the [Associated Press’] phone records, it would not have given James Rosen of Fox News any more protection against the FBI’s hunt for his sources, and it would not have spared James Risen of the New York Times from a subpoena ordering him to name his sources, a subpoena still in effect,” the organization said.
     The Senate committee approved the draft law on Sept. 12.
     According to Reporters Without Borders, Feinstein said that only “real reporters” should be protected, adding that people like Edward Snowden should not be.
     The group also claims Schumer stated that the bill should not protect journalists who publish primary source documents that were obtained without authorization, exposing organizations like Wikileaks to government action.
     “The version of the shield law that was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee has major flaws,” the group said. “It is based on a much too restrictive definition of who is a journalist, one that in practice excludes bloggers and other news providers.”
     The approved draft “unfortunately falls far short of Reporters Without Borders’ recommendation on this subject,” the group said.
     Reporters Without Borders made its recommendations to Congress in May following reports that the Justice Department had seized AP phone records. The group recommended that the future law extend the categories covered by protection of sources and penalize violations of the protection of sources, among other things.
     Thursday’s statement was made by Yara Bishara of the nonprofit’s Washington office.

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