Thursday, May 04, 2006

Connecticut passes reporter shield law

The Connecticut legislature yesterday overwhelmingly voted to pass a shield law for reporters to protect their confidential sources. The bill was approved in the Senate by a vote of 36-0 and in the House by 136-11. The Connecticut Post reports that Gov. M. Jodi Rell will sign the bill, which will then take effect Oct. 1.

The bill creates a "qualified" shield, meaning that courts still can require disclosure of a source in certain circumstances. A court could compel disclosure in either a criminal or a civil case if it were shown by clear and convincing evidence that:
  • The information or the identity of the source of the information is critical or necessary to the investigation or prosecution of a crime or to a criminal defense, or to the maintenance of a party's claim, defense or proof of a material issue.
  • The information or the identity of the source of the information cannot be obtained from any alternative source.
  • There is an overriding public interest in the disclosure.
The law defines "news media" to include:
  • Any newspaper, magazine or other periodical, book publisher, news agency, wire service, radio or television station or network, cable or satellite or other transmission system or carrier, or channel or programming service for such station, network, system or carrier, or audio or audiovisual production company that disseminates information to the public, whether by print, broadcast, photographic, mechanical, electronic or any other means or medium.
  • Any person who is or has been an employee, agent or independent contractor of any such entity and is or has been engaged in gathering, preparing or disseminating information to the public for such entity, or any other person supervising or assisting such person with gathering, preparing or disseminating information.
  • Any parent, subsidiary, division or affiliate of any such persons or entities.
It is not clear whether this definition would include bloggers. At first glance, it would appear to exclude bloggers who are not working for a media organization, but perhaps one could argue that a blog is a "periodical" or "other transmission system" and therefore covered.

Full information about the bill and its legislative history is available here.

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