Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Governor Pence Needs to Push for Updated Indiana Media Shield Law to Apply to Bloggers and Internet Radio Broadcasters

Indiana Governor Mike Pence
The Associated Press reports that at the annual AP Media Editor's Conference, Indiana Governor Mike Pence spoke about his work introducing the federal media shield law while in Congress and that he would continue to push for it to pass:
"I believe the only check on government in real-time is a free and independent press," he said.

Pence spent a dozen years representing Indiana in Congress before winning election last year as governor. Throughout his run in Washington, he pushed the Free Flow of Information Act as a means to encourage sources and potential whistle-blowers to expose more wrongdoing.

Much of his work came amid the trial of former vice presidential adviser I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and the jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller for refusing to reveal the source who disclosed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. However, Pence said the Obama administration's seizure of AP phone records this past spring as evidence of the need for a law protecting the identity of sources.

"The federal media shield isn't about protecting reporters, it's about protecting the public's right to know," he said.

Governor Pence indeed does deserve praise for his work in Congress on the federal media shield law.  However, since Pence began pushing the issue in Congress, the world of journalism changed.  Today, news stories are just as likely to be broken by bloggers, sometimes called citizen journalists, as traditional media.  When it comes to radio, broadcasting over the internet is quickly supplanting traditional radio.  Indiana Talks is a great example of that new media.

However, Indiana Shield Law, which was adopted in 1998, does not protect the new media.  IC 34-4-6-1 defines who is covered:
This chapter applies to the following persons:
        (1) any person connected with, or any person who has been connected with or employed by:
            (A) a newspaper or other periodical issued at regular intervals and having a general circulation; or
            (B) a recognized press association or wire service;
        as a bona fide owner, editorial or reportorial employee, who receives or has received income from legitimate gathering, writing, editing and interpretation of news; and
        (2) any person connected with a licensed radio or television station as owner, official, or as an editorial or reportorial employee who receives or has received income from legitimate gathering, writing, editing, interpreting, announcing or broadcasting of news.
As written, Indiana's shield law wouldn't apply to most bloggers, even if they write on a regular basis.  It also would not apply to broadcasts over internet radio where licensing is not required.

Without statutory protection, citizen journalists and internet radio broadcasters have to rely on shield protections provided by the First Amendment.  Some courts have applied these protections to the new media, while others have not.  The 7th Circuit has not definitively ruled on the subject.

Indiana can, of course, eliminate that uncertainty by simply updating its Shield Law.  Governor Pence could score major points with the media by pushing for an update to the Shield Law to protect bloggers and internet radio broadcasters.

1 comment:

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