Journalists, bloggers will get protection
The Legislature has approved a bill that would shield journalists and some bloggers from having to reveal their sources.
State legislators have addressed concerns by law-enforcement officials and approved a three-year trial run of a measure to protect journalists from revealing their sources of information. Gov. Linda Lingle should sign the bill into law so Hawaii can join more than two-thirds of the states that already have shield laws for journalists.
Attorney General Mark Bennett and city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle have expressed concerns about public safety and security. Exceptions to the protection include information vital to felony investigations or court proceedings, the subject of defamation lawsuits or information "critical to prevent serious harm or public safety." It also would not protect a journalist who is or has been involved in committing a crime.
Reporters shielded by the bill would include working journalists and Internet bloggers engaged in spreading "news or information of substantial public interest for the purpose of dissemination to the general public." A U.S. House bill similarly would cover bloggers serving the public interest but has exceptions beyond those in the Hawaii measure.
Some journalists have frowned on such shield laws, regarding them as being inherent to First Amendment protections. However, judges increasingly have rejected that view and sent reporters to jail for refusing to divulge sources.
No Hawaii journalist has been jailed by a state or federal judge for refusing to name sources, but that is no guarantee that it won't happen. A federal judge has levied a fine escalating to $5,000 a day of a former USA Today reporter, to come from her own pocket, for refusing to name as many as a dozen sources in her reports of the 2001 anthrax attacks. An appeals panel has temporarily blocked the fine and is scheduled to hear arguments in the case Friday.
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