Senator Schumer More Or Less Admits His 'Media Shield' Law Won't Protect Actual Journalists
from the a-total-failure dept
There are all sorts of problems with all of that, starting with the most obvious: when the government gets to define who is and who is not a "journalist," you're raising serious First Amendment questions about how Congress can make no law interfering with a free press. By defining who is and who is not a journalist, it would appear that Congress is violating that basic concept.
Driving home this point last week, the main author of the Senate's shield law, Senator Chuck Schumer, himself has admitted that he's not sure if his own law would protect Glenn Greenwald:
Schumer discussed the bill's provisions and how, if it became law, it might affect journalist Glenn Greenwald, who reported on National Security Agency's secret surveillance based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden.And that demonstrates how the law actually may be worse than current law. If it's carving out exceptions for the people doing real investigative reporting, breaking big stories that are having a very serious global impact on a variety of issues, then it's making the situation worse, not better.
"It's probably not enough protections to (cover) him, but it's better than current law," Schumer said.
Any law that attempts to define "journalist" is going to be a massive problem and likely unconstitutional. There is some view that we already have a journalism shield law in the First Amendment itself. Alternatively, if the government really wants to make an explicit safe harbor to protect journalist sources, it seems that a better approach would be to not define "journalists," but just make it clear that it protects anyone "engaged in journalism," whether professional or not. The whole reason why the Senate is so fearful of having the law too broad is that they're worried that, say, someone engaged in criminal activity will be able to get immunity from revealing accomplices by claiming to be a journalist. But, instead you could just look at whether the activities they were engaged in was gathering information for the sake of disclosing it, and see that it was a form of journalism. But, instead, it looks like Congress wants to push forward with a bad law that is almost certainly unconstitutional.