Monday, July 28, 2014

The "Free Flow of Information Act" - Except Not

Last week I received yet another fine and lovely patronizing email from my Senator Dianne Feinstein.

She was responding to my correspondence about the Free Flow of Information act. I had of course written to instruct her to protect ALL writing, not just that by degreed journalists (although I do sport one of those degrees).

Her response to me (and yes I have repeatedly informed her that I am female):

Dear Mr. Waytz:

Thank you for writing to express your concerns about my amendment to the "Free Flow of Information Act" (S. 987). Your correspondence is important to me, and I welcome the opportunity to clarify my amendment.

I believe a free press is a cornerstone to our democracy, and an independent media is essential to hold government accountable. Let me be clear: I support a reporter-shield law. I voted in favor of similar legislation in previous Congresses. More than 30 states, including California, have adopted a reporter-shield law, but there is no federal protection for journalists and reporters with professional credentials.

As you may know, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced a reporter shield bill called the "Free Flow of Information Act" (S. 987). This legislation would create a federal reporter shield law, prohibiting federal law enforcement agencies from compelling a reporter to reveal his or her sources. I was concerned the protection in the original draft provided a special privilege to people who are not really reporters – namely the operators of Wikileaks or hate websites.

Therefore, when the Senate Judiciary Committee debated this bill, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and I offered an amendment to define who is considered a "covered journalist" in order to receive this new special privilege.

Under our amendment, a "covered journalist" is defined as someone who is an employee, agent, or independent contractor for a media entity. You should know that this definition would also include freelance journalists, documentarians, book authors, bloggers for news sites, and many others. I believe the language "legitimate news-gathering activities" is key and would exclude hate websites and other persons who are not actually engaged in a journalist pursuit. I am pleased to report the amendment is supported by a list of more than 70 different media and public interest organizations, including CNN, Fox News Network Inc., and the Newspaper Association of America.

On September 12, 2013, Senator Schumer's bill was considered by the Judiciary Committee. I voted for it, and the bill was approved 13-5. It now awaits action on the Senate floor.

Once again, thank you for your letter. I hope you will continue to write on matters of importance to you. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein United States Senator

MY response to her response:

Dear Mr. Feinstein -

I think you're wrong on this. The First Amendment protects speech, and in this day and age, Any Citizen who reports a story should be protected by this legislation. You don't get to pick and choose the reportage you like.

Further, only protecting "approved" journalists is actually worse than not protecting anyone, because any number of nefarious agenda-bearers (including the Federal Government) will control the approval process. That is WAY too much power. Ironic this is "The Free Flow of Information Act," because the way it's written now, it's anything but that.

I'm very discouraged by the tightening of the noose.

Please remember I remain,

Your Employer,

Ruth Waytz

1 comment:

  1. I also find it strange that she boasts the support of commercial media outlets like CNN and Fox News, who would likely appear more deeply vetted to the non-discerning public because their employees "qualified" for this vague accreditation. Obviously they would support that, but as you noted it just widens the gap.