Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., have offered an amendment to a Press Shield Bill sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., that would eliminate protections from citizen journalists that are offered to paid journalists.
Their amendment to S. 448 would deny ordinary citizens doing vital investigations in the public interest the same legal protections as professional journalists.
By denying these protections, citizen investigations would be stifled. The most recent example of a citizen investigation would be the ACORN probe by an independent filmmaker.
The bill states that it will maintain the free flow of information to the public by providing conditions for the federally compelled disclosure of information by certain persons connected with the news media.
An amendment filed by Durbin and Feinstein would exclude an individual who gathers or disseminates the protected information sought to be compelled anonymously or under a pseudonym.
Feinstein Amendment to S 448 (12-09) (00131100)
The bill is in the first step in the legislative process. Introduced bills and resolutions first go to committees that deliberate, investigate, and revise them before they go to general debate. The majority of bills and resolutions never make it out of committee. Committee on the Judiciary is scheduled to consider the bill on Dec. 10.
The amendment is a very dangerous intrusion on everyone's First Amendment rights. Since Thomas Paine, Americans have always voiced their opinions, commentaries and investigations into what they see as injustices and corruption. The ACORN story was a national story, but across the country there are many individuals using the Internet and film to shine the light on their local governments. They deserve every protection that paid journalists enjoy under the law.
This couldn't be payback for the ACORN story, could it?