OLYMPIA - A bipartisan group of legislators will sponsor Attorney General Rob McKenna's request legislation to create a reporter shield law in Washington this session.
Sen. Adam Kline, a Seattle Democrat and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Stephen Johnson, R-Kent, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, will co-sponsor the bill with Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, and Sen. Dave Schmidt, R-Mill Creek.
“I'm grateful leaders from both parties are joining me in supporting this important legislation,” McKenna said. “The reporter's privilege helps maintain an open and accountable government and society. Media and public access to information from confidential sources definitely is not a partisan issue. I look forward to working with these leaders and others in the Legislature to protect reporters' rights to pursue tough stories without fear of lengthy lawsuits or possible jail time for protecting their sources.”
Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have enacted statutory shield laws to protect news reporters from compelled disclosure and federal shield legislation is being considered in Congress.
“Recent news stories demonstrate how important it is to protect reporters against compelled disclosure of their confidential sources,” Kline said. “The news media plays a vital role in holding our government accountable-and we must not allow those in positions of power to scare them into submission.”
“Now more than ever, access to information is crucial in our society,” Johnson said. “Whether you get your news from television, print media, radio, online or a combination, you should trust that you're getting the complete story, not just the non-controversial information that's safe to cover.”
Keiser, a former reporter for KSTW television, knows first-hand the importance of a reporter shield law.
“As a former news reporter, I've covered tough stories where it is absolutely crucial to provide a shield for your source,” Keiser said. “These people know they could lose their jobs or run a risk to their families if their identities are revealed. Reporters who responsibly use confidential sources should not face prison time for upholding their word.”
Schmidt, a noncommissioned officer in the National Guard, called freedom of the press a vital right in American society.
“Washington needs to join the 31 other states who offer statutory protection for those in the newsgathering business,” Schmidt said. “While our courts have upheld a common law protection, it's time to give news gatherers a more substantial shield and I'm ready to do my part to see this become law.”
The Attorney General worked with First Amendment attorneys at Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP, in Seattle to draft the legislation. The proposed legislation provides an absolute privilege to protect those in the news business from compelled disclosure of confidential sources and provides a qualified privilege for a reporter's work product.
The legislation protects not just television, radio and newspaper reporters but also book publishers, magazine reporters or any person in the “regular business of disseminating news or information to the public by any means.”
Contact: Janelle Guthrie, AG Media Relations Director, (360) 586-0725
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Sen. Adam Kline, 360-786-7688
Sen. Stephen Johnson, 360-786-7692
Sen. Karen Keiser, 360-786-7664
Sen. Dave Schmdit, 360-786-7686