INSTRUCTIONS: In this activity, you assume the role of a senator who has received a memo about protecting journalists from having to testify and reveal confidential sources. You will review arguments for and against this “shield law”, cast your vote and then provide a written explanation of your decision.
INTRODUCTION: To: Senator Brian Dillon
From: Lucy Rae, political communication strategist
Subject: Protecting Journalists
The Supreme Court has held that forcing a reporter to testify does not violate the First Amendment to the Constitution. But Congress could pass a law, similar to that in many states, banning such testimony if it reveals a confidential source.
Efforts by the White House to find out who is the “high-ranking official” cited in recent news stories about possible ethics violations have renewed calls by media groups for a “shield law” for journalists. Congress may hold hearings later this week.
1. Thirty-four states now have shield laws similar to the one proposed by Congress.
2. Effective journalism requires protecting sources from being identified; without protection, many important stories would not be written.
3. The government should be able to collect sufficient information to prosecute cases without relying on journalists to do this work for them.
1. Every person accused in a criminal trial has a right to know all of the evidence against him or her and to confront witnesses. A shield law would deprive people of this right.
2. A shield law would allow any government official to leak secret information with no fear of being detected.
3. The Supreme Court already has imposed a high barrier to forcing reporters to reveal confidential information, but that barrier should not be absolute, as situations can and do arise where a reporter is the only person who has the information necessary to investigate alleged criminal activity that threatens national security.
Will you support or oppose a shield law bill? Why?
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