Thursday, January 28, 2010

Scott Brown's Short-lived Bill for a Reporters' Shield

Although various groups have lobbied for a reporters' shield law in Massachusetts, the state remains without one. But in 2005, just a year after he was elected to the state Senate, U.S. Sen.-elect Scott Brown made an aborted attempt to change that.

As the Senate took up debate on the state budget on May 23, 2005, Brown  and former Sen. Brian P. Lees, then the Senate's Republican leader, proposed a reporters' shield law as a budget amendment. But by the end of the first day of budget debate, they had withdrawn the proposed law. No explanation was ever given for why they filed the bill so suddenly or why they withdrew it just as quickly.

Titled the "Free Flow of Information Act," the bill would have prevented the state from compelling a reporter to testify except in narrow circumstances. It would have absolutely prohibited the state from forcing reporters to disclose confidential sources.

Brown never refiled the bill, but he did sign on as a sponsor of a shield bill drafted by a coalition of media representatives and filed in 2007. That bill died in committee. Two Senate shield bills have been filed in the current session of the legislature, SB 1673 and SB 1574. Brown did not sign on as a cosponsor of either.

When last I counted, Massachusetts was one of 16 states without a shield law.

1 comment:

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Obama as a senator was a shield law sponsor, he now wants to impose wording that would make the executive branch, instead of the judiciary, the final arbiter in matters of national security.