|First Amendment Advocates Make Case for Federal Shield Law
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FORTY-NINE STATES offer protection to journalists who refuse to divulge their confidential sources. The federal government does not. Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper would
like to see that change.
“It’s a confusing time for journalists. I hope Congress will go ahead and pass a bipartisan federal shield law which will at least bring some clarity,” said Cooper, who nearly went
to jail for withholding the identities of his sources on a celebrated story he wrote about outed CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Cooper made these remarks during a September panel discussion at the National Constitution Center that included an illustrious group of reporters, lawyers and scholars billed as
“The First Amendment All Stars.” Penn Law, an NCC partner, was a co-sponsor.
Ron Collins, a scholar at the First Amendment Center in Washington, endorsed Cooper’s view. “You cannot speak of a right of the people to receive information, the right of the
public to make an informed decision, without protecting whistleblowers,” he said. “In that respect, the link between the press and its sources is essential.”