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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

SUNSHINE WEEK: House Judiciary Committee to Hold Hearing on Pence Media Shield Law

Just as he promised last fall during his Distinguished Journalist Lecture at The Heritage Foundation, Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN, said today he has secured agreement from the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing on his bill providing a national media shield law.

Here's the text of Pence's news release on the coming hearing:

"As part of Sunshine Week, U.S. Congressman Mike Pence announced today that the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Free Flow of Information Act during this session of Congress. A date for the hearing is still to be determined.

"'The Constitution of the United States reads, in part, 'Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom ...of the press.' This freedom represents a bedrock of our democracy by ensuring a free flow of information to the public. But sadly this freedom is under attack.

"'Over the last few years, more than a dozen reporters have been issued subpoenas and questioned about confidential sources. In response to this alarming trend, last year I introduced the Free Flow of Information Act, a bill designed to protect a reporter's right to keep sources confidential.

"'I am pleased to announce that the House Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, will be holding a committee hearing on the issue of a federal media shield law.

"'I can't think of a more appropriate time to announce a hearing on this bill than during national Sunshine Week, a week focused on the importance of preserving a free and independent press and the public's right to know.

"'I commend House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) on his willingness to address this important First Amendment issue and look forward to a vigorous debate on the issue of a federal media shield in the House.'

"Background: Many journalists have been threatened with criminal charges for refusing to reveal confidential sources and with Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine and Judith Miller of The New York Times recently losing their appeals, it is imperative to pass the media shield law and give reporters the same protections that are afforded other professions such as clergy, attorneys and physicians.

The Free Flow of Information Act closely follows existing Department of Justice guidelines for issuing subpoenas to members of the news media and provides protection against compelled disclosure of confidential sources by making the guidelines mandatory.

In doing so, this legislation strikes a balance between the public's need for information and the fair administration of justice."

For more information on the Pence proposal, go here and here. Pence is Chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus in Congress. You can read Pence's blog here.