US journalists are forced to reveal their sources of information they relied on in a variety of stories, they have even been issued subpoenas in recent months. All these actions inspire media personnel and political pundits to call for more comprehensive media shield laws.
US Senators are trying to force a bill demanding to reveal source of information. In September 2013 the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Free Flow of Information Act (FFIA), a bill that would prohibit federal agencies, prosecutors, and litigants from threatening reporters with prison time if they refuse to turn over their sources’ identities. The bill is awaiting a full vote in the Senate.
There have been numerous cases when journalists were threatened with arrests if they refuse to reveal their sources. For instance, a Fox News reporter was threatened with jail time if she did not reveal the source of a tip on the Aurora, Colorado shooting case. Or in December, lawyers in New York City subpoenaed documents and tape recordings from a journalist Graham Rayman, a Village Voice reporter, who covered a police department whistleblower. More recently, in January, attorneys for Trenton, New Jersey Mayor Tony Mack sought force Alex Zdan of the Trenton Times to provide information about a co-defendant in a corruption case against Mayor Mack. That co-defendant told Zdan he had bribed the mayor with $8,000 in cash.
With all these cases, activists and political pundits are calling for media shield laws to protect journalists’ sources, as the current situation in the US media landscape threatens to exclude independent journalists at all.
US journalists are traditionally permitted to print any information they choose if it is accurate, with potentially controversial facts often attributed to a source. But with the new laws and lack of media shield, American journalist will be compelled to turn over their source or otherwise face jail time.