Secrecy News

House Adopts a Comprehensive Reporters Privilege

Late at night on Thursday, May 29, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) introduced an amendment to the FY 2015 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill to provide a near-absolute shield for reporters against compulsory disclosure of their confidential sources.

“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to compel a journalist or reporter to testify about information or sources that the journalist or reporter states in a motion to quash the subpoena that he has obtained as a journalist or reporter and that he regards as confidential,” the amendment reads.

The proposal initially seemed to have been voted down on a voice vote, but Rep. Grayson demanded a vote count, and the measure was adopted in the House bill by a vote of 225-183.

In a statement published in yesterday’s Congressional Record, Rep. Grayson said: “This amendment is to be construed liberally and broadly, to effectuate its purpose of protecting journalists and their sources from any coercive action taken by the government and the legal system. Its spirit applies to other government agencies, and to litigation between private parties. The terms ‘information or sources’ and ‘confidential’ are to be given the widest possible construction.”

“For purposes of this amendment, the definition of a ‘reporter’ includes: any person, natural person, or entity who releases, reports on, or provides information of a classified or unclassified nature to a public audience or on the internet, does so on a regular basis, and receives compensation for doing so. The term ‘reporter’ is a description of a profession.”

The term “journalist” is broader:

“For purposes of this amendment, the definition of a ‘journalist’ includes: any person, natural person, or entity who releases, reports on, or provides information of a classified or unclassified nature to a public audience or on the internet, and does so on a regular or an irregular basis. The term ‘journalism’ describes an act, not a profession. A person, entity, or natural person is a journalist so long as he or she is engaged in the act of journalism. An act of journalism involves the collection, analysis, description, dissemination, and/or publication of information,” Rep. Grayson said.