Shield Bill

What’s the federal shield law all about?

Submitted by Jeanne Harnois on February 11, 2010 – 1:05am

Dan McCrory, Recording Secretary, explains this important legislation

The U.S. Senate will soon consider a proposed federal shield law that provides the same protections to freelance journalists as to writers employed by newspapers, magazines, broadcast outlets and online publishers. The Free Flow of Information Act, S. 448, could have implications for all media workers, legislators and government officials, opinion leaders and the general public.

The bill, supported by the Obama White House, provides a shield against forced disclosure of confidential sources or information to any “person who with the primary intent to investigate events and procure material in order to disseminate to the public news or information concerning local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest, regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports or publishes on such matters.”

But there are also exceptions in S. 448 relating to “alleged criminal or tortuous conduct, prevention of death, kidnapping, or substantial bodily injury, prevention of terrorist activity, or prevention of national security harm.” The Senate must pass the bill and then reconcile it with a House bill with the same name, H.R. 985, which does not protect freelancers.

The National Writers Union and many other writers’ organizations have been advocating and lobbying for such a law for many years. The NWU CAP Committee (Community Action Program) is trying to help push this bill over the top. We are also seeking ways to work with a coalition of groups that has been pressing for the Shield Law.

If you would like to see copies of both bills, visit If you would like to get involved with the NWU CAP Committee, contact We will update you as further action is taken and/or when both bills are available on line.