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Yarmuth Introduces Legislation to Protect Journalists, Sources

“Shield Bill” Reaffirms Anonymity of Sources

(Washington, DC) Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3), in a press conference with Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), announced the introduction of the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007, which protects the rights of journalists to keep their sources confidential.

“On several occasions at the LEO, we were able to open doors due to confidential accounts of protected sources, which, without assured protections, would have remained closed to us forever,” Congressman Yarmuth said.  “Simply stated, if this bill is not passed, we as a country will be in the dark on certain issues, good journalists will go to jail, and potential sources will remain tight lipped.”

Reps. Boucher and Pence have been working for several years to implement legislation that protects reporters, but have had little success.  By including Yarmuth, Congress’s only member of the Society of Professional Journalists, to help craft and introduce the new version of the bill, there is renewed optimism that 2007 will see passage of a journalist shield bill.

The bill protects reporters from facing a legal obligation to reveal sources, thus reassuring informants and whistleblowers that their identities will remain guarded, and allowing a “free flow of information” through the media to the public.  The measure makes exceptions in cases of immediate and actual threats to an individual or group of people.

Yarmuth’s unique perspective was not limited to his role in the media.  He also spoke about Louisville’s most famous whistle blower case, in which Dr. Jeffrey Wigand exposed corruption in the tobacco industry.  Without the benefit of anonymity, Dr. Wigand was victimized by threats and lost his job, family, and home.

Senator’s Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) have introduced comparable legislation in the Senate.