Journalists have to be employed to be called journalists in Chuck Schumer’s eyes.
By Zaid Jilani / AlterNet
After the revelation that the Department of Justice had taken phone records from Associated Press journalists as part of a leak investigation, members of Congress reintroduced the Free Flow of Information Act, also known as the federal media shield law. The basic purpose behind the law is to protect journalists from having to reveal confidential sources to the government.
The bill’s chief sponsor, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), claims it has wide support in his chamber, and has identified five Republicans who would vote to support it. It is expected to come up for a vote in April.
But the devil here is in the details. While the law does extend certain protections to some journalists, it is very particular about who exactly it covers. The Associated Press’s Donna Cossata explains:
“The bill’s protections would apply to a ‘covered journalist,’ defined as an employee, independent contractor or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information. The individual would have to have been employed for one year within the last 20 or three months within the last five years.
“It would apply to student journalists or someone with a considerable amount of freelance work in the last five years. A federal judge also would have the discretion to declare an individual a ‘covered journalist’ who would be granted the privileges of the law.
“The bill also says that information is only privileged if it is disseminated by a news medium, described as ‘newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, news agency, news website, mobile application or other news or information service (whether distributed digitally or otherwise); news program, magazine or other periodical, whether in print, electronic or other format; or thorough television or radio broadcast … or motion picture for public showing.’”