Journalist shield bill includes online news
Both online and traditional journalists in Hawaii would get the same protection from having to reveal their sources under a measure that passed a legislative committee yesterday.
Lawmakers abandoned an idea that would have defined a journalist as someone who complies with the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics after the organization protested having its standard of conduct used to define who qualifies.
The new bill covers any reporter who disseminates news in the "substantial public interest," as well as those who have ever worked in the news media.
"This still allows the bloggers to get protections under this privilege," said Rep. Blake Oshiro (D, Aiea-Halawa).
The measure would help whistleblowers feel safer when they anonymously provide newsworthy information because prosecutors couldn't compel reporters to name names, said Chris Conybeare, chairman of the Honolulu Community Media Council.
"Prosecutors shouldn't be able to use journalists as their detectives," Conybeare said.
The bill would allow journalists to do their jobs as government watchdogs, said Gerald Kato, chairman of the University of Hawaii's School of Communications.
"You're not going to be independent if some lawyer can subpoena you," Kato said.
Representatives reconsidered the bill yesterday because the Society of Professional Journalists was "freaking out that we had written their provisions in," Oshiro said.
The measure contains exceptions that would require journalists to give in to the courts if they're a witness to or participant in a criminal activity.