Monday, October 24, 2005

SHIELD LAW: Definition of journalist in Lugar bill excludes bloggers?

This story contains the draft language defining journalist in the shield
law. It appears to exclude bloggers.

Here is a link to the actual text of the proposed law:

Shield Law Sponsor: Bloggers 'Probably Not' Considered Journos

By Mark Fitzgerald
Editor & Publisher Online

Published: October 10, 2005 4:17 PM ET

Bloggers would "probably not" be considered journalists under
the proposed federal shield law, the bill's co-sponsor, U.S. Sen. Richard
Lugar (R.-Ind.), told the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) Monday

Lugar emphasized, however, that debate is not yet closed on how to define
a journalist under the proposed law.

"As to who is a reporter, this will be a subject of debate as this bill
goes farther along," he said in response to a question from Washington
Post Deputy Managing Editor Milton Coleman. "Are bloggers journalists or
some of the commercial businesses that you here would probably not
consider real journalists? Probably not, but how do you determine who will
be included in this bill?"

According to the first draft of the Free Flow of Information Act of 2005,
the "covered person" protected by the bill's terms includes "any entity
that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite,
mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means and that publishes a
newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical in print or electronic
form; operates a radio or television station (or network of such
stations), cable system, or satellite carrier, or channel or programming
service for any such station, network, system, or carrier; or operates a
news agency or wire service." The legislation also covers employees,
contractors or other persons who "gathers, edits, photographs, records,
prepares, or disseminates news or information for any such entity."

A key reason some journalists oppose the popular federal shield proposal
is fear that giving Congress the power to define who is and isn't a
journalist could lead effectively to the licensing of journalists.

In other remarks about the legislation at IAPA's 61st General Assembly,
Lugar acknowledged that the legislation could amount to a "privilege" for
reporters over other Americans.

"I think, very frankly, you can make a case that this is a special boon
for reporters, and certainly for their role in freedom of the press," he
said. "At the end of the day what we will come out with says there is
something privileged about being a reporter, and being able to report on
something without being thrown into jail."

Lugar said he was inspired to write the legislation by the jailing of New
York Times reporter Judith Miller. "I've known Judy Miller for many
years," he said, adding that they became close when she was reporting on
his efforts to dismantle the former Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal.

The bill is necessary to help the United States regain its status as an
"exemplar" of press freedom, Lugar told the IAPA. "Even as we are
advocating for free press (abroad)... we'd better clean up our own act,"
Lugar said.
Mark Fitzgerald ( is E&P's


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