AGs Support Federal Reporter Shield Law
Citing state laws that “advance a public policy favoring the free flow of information,” Attorney General Drew Edmondson joined 40 other attorneys general in supporting a federal reporter shield law.
In a letter sent yesterday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the attorneys general expressed their support for the Free Flow of Information Act currently pending before Congress. The proposed legislation would recognize a qualified reporter’s privilege, also known as a shield law.
Shield laws protect journalists from being forced by a court or administrative proceeding to disclose information received from, or the identity of, confidential sources.
“Every state but Wyoming has a shield law,” Edmondson said. “A federal law will serve to bolster the protections already provided at the state level.”
In 2005, Edmondson led a group of more than 30 attorneys general asking the United States Supreme Court to rule on the issue. The nation’s highest court refused the case.
“Federal courts are divided on the existence and scope of a reporter’s privilege, producing inconsistency and uncertainty for reporters and the confidential sources upon whom they rely,” the letter states. “By exposing confidences protected under state law to discovery in federal courts, the lack of a corresponding federal reporter’s privilege law frustrates the purposes of the state-recognized privileges and undercuts the benefit to the public that the states have sought to bestow through their shield laws.”
Oklahoma’s shield law can be found in Section 2506 of Title 12.
“A state shield law offers no protection if a reporter is called before a federal grand jury or federal court,” Edmondson said. “A federal law that adequately addresses national security and law enforcement concerns while still protecting confidential sources should have no impact on a court or grand jury’s ability to function.”
To overcome the report’s privilege under Oklahoma law, the party seeking the information must prove to the court that the information is relevant, that the issue is significant and that it cannot be obtained by due diligence in any other manner.