WASHINGTON, D.C.--Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) and John Conyers, Jr (D-MI) announced they were working together on “The Free Flow of Information Act of 2013" (H.R. 1962). The legislation is based on similar legislation which passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly in the 110th and 111th Congress.
The legislation protects members of the media by providing a qualified privilege that prevents reporters source material from being revealed to government investigators except under certain narrow circumstances, such as where necessary to prevent an act of terrorism or other significant and specified harm to national security, imminent death, or harm to national security. The bill strikes a carefully tailored balance between the First Amendment and national security and law enforcement.
Both Rep. Poe and Rep. Conyers are senior members of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the legislation and were past supporters of the legislation. Rep. Conyers was Chair of the Committee when similar legislation passed in 2007 and 2009. Rep. Radel spent nearly twenty years as a journalist in Florida.
“Democracy cannot exist without a free press, “said Rep. Poe. “A free press provides critical information to the public, including information about the activity of the federal government. The media’s ability to deliver the news provides a crucial check on government power. Maintaining confidentiality of sources is critical to ensuring the free flow of information without government interference.”
“As someone who worked as a journalist for almost 20 years, this issue is close to my heart,” said Rep. Radel. ‘We need to protect every American’s right to free speech which is so often and in so many different ways carried out through freedom of the press. American’s should not fear a heavy handed government when they want to speak out on an injustice, be a whistleblower or shine light where there is darkness. This legislation ensures we protect freedom of the press and your right to free speech.”
“Freedom of the Press is a foundational freedom upon which all of our other freedoms and liberties are based and protected,” said Rep. Conyers. “Given that 49 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia have special legal protections for the press, it is long past time that our federal government provides similar protections. I look forward to working with Rep. Poe and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this vital matter.”
“The Free Flow of Information Act of 2013” is supported by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB); the Newspaper Association of America (NAA); the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); the Newspaper Guild-CWA and CBS.
The National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Gordon Smith said: "NAB strongly supports the 'Free Flow of Information Act.'. As broadcasters, we believe there is nothing more vital to preserving a vibrant democracy than the First Amendment and the freedoms afforded journalists in keeping citizens informed. We urge swift passage of this bill."
The Newspaper Guild-CWA President Bernie Lunzer said: "The Newspaper Guild-CWA is outraged by the DOJ’s surveillance of Associated Press reporters’ phone records. We are gratified that political leaders from both parties stand with us and other media organizations in calling this what it is: a dangerous assault on a free press and democracy itself. But words aren’t enough. We call on Congress to take action in the form of a federal shield law. We add our name to the list of supporters of the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013 and urge its passage."