Sunday, March 04, 2012

Legislature Sets March 6 Hearing on Journalist Shield Bill for Mass.

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing this week on a bill to create a journalist shield law in Massachusetts. House Bill 2255, the Free Flow of Information Act, sponsored by Rep. Alice Hanlon Peisch (D-Wellesley), would bar state government from compelling members of the news media to disclose the source of any news or information.

The hearing is set for Tuesday, March 6, at 1 p.m. in State House Room A-2.

The bill would also bar the compelled disclosure of notes, outtakes, film and other materials collected by a reporter but not used in any news report, unless a court first determines that the information cannot be obtained anywhere else and there is an overriding public interest in the disclosure.

In addition to barring disclosure of sources and notes, the bill would prohibit the state from compelling a reporter to testify except in cases where disclosure of the identity of a source is necessary to prevent imminent acts of terrorism.

Massachusetts is one of only 10 states that does not have a statute that shields journalists from subpoenas. Last April, West Virginia became the 40th state to enact such a law. The District of Columbia also has a shield law.

The Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association and the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association will be among those testifying at Tuesday's hearing. Others with an interest in this bill are encouraged to testify or attend and show their support.

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