Lawmakers call for compromise on shield law for reporters
State senators asked journalists and prosecutors yesterday to work on a compromise regarding a measure that would protect reporters from having to reveal their sources and notes.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on House Bill 2557, which has already passed the House, but lawmakers held off on a vote until Friday at the soonest.
Honolulu city prosecutors argued that the shield bill needs to be weakened so that journalists can be forced to reveal their sources in criminal cases, a change that mainstream media representatives said would be acceptable if it applied only to nontraditional journalists.
But they weren't willing to accommodate the Hawaii Attorney General's Office, which wanted journalist protections removed if a defendant has a right to the information or if public safety is impaired.
"In reviewing the changes suggested by the attorney general, we're better off with no bill," testified media attorney Jeff Portnoy.
Deputy Attorney General Girard Lau said he also doesn't want to see bloggers, pamphleteers or one-time Internet posters attempting to claim a right to withhold information from the courts.
The measure would grant all current and former mainstream reporters legal protections, but bloggers and other Internet reporters would have to prove they're disseminating news in the "substantial public interest."
If media and prosecutors can't agree by the end of the week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Taniguchi (D, Moiliili-Manoa) said he was willing to push back voting on the bill until next week.