Congress may soon pass federal shield law. It’s been a long time coming.


After years of effort by press freedom advocates and their allies, Congress in its current session seems to be on the verge of finally passing a federal reporter shield law, which would give broad protection to journalists from being compelled to reveal the names of sources and methods in federal court testimony.

In mid-January, the House of Representatives passed without objection, the “Protect Reporters from Exploitative State Spying Act” or PRESS Act. The bill, which as of this writing was currently pending in the Senate, seeks “to maintain the free flow of information to the public by establishing appropriate limits on the federally compelled disclosure of information obtained as part of engaging in journalism,” according to the bill’s introduction.

With broad bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, the PRESS Act is an effort to accomplish on the federal level something that the vast majority of states have already done through shield law legislation or through court decisions: recognize a journalist’s right to withhold information from forced disclosure in a courtroom.

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