INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — There is a new, bi-partisan movement on Capitol Hill to pass a media shield law designed to help reporters protect confidential sources.
It's a reaction to the recent scandal regarding Obama Administration investigations into the Associated Press and Fox News. It is also a bill that was first introduced by Indiana Governor Mike Pence when he was in Congress.
Pence sponsored a media shield bill that passed the House twice, in 2007 and 2009. Both times it failed in the Senate. Now it's back and Pence is still pushing for it.
The governor says that he will encourage members of the Indiana delegation in Congress to vote for the new bill calling for a media shield that would force reporters to reveal sources only under court order.
"I do think the allegations of overreach by the Justice Department in this case argue very strongly for the adoption of a federal media shield statute," he said, "and I strongly support it."
When Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed that the Department of Justice obtained phone records of 20 reporters at the Associated Press over a two month period without their knowledge, it prompted tough questions from Congress.
It also pointed out, says Pence, that current government regulations don't work.
"They did it secretly," said AP President Gary Pruitt on Face the Nation. "Their rules require them to come to us first but in this case they didn't."
When Congressman Pence fought for the law on Capitol Hill he faced opposition from both the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration.
"The bill is not about protecting journalists," he argued on the House floor in 2009. "It's about protecting the public's right to know."
Now, as then, Pence argues that a free press is the only check on government power.
"I think the ability of the press to protect confidential sources," he said, "is essential to the news gathering process."
So, if Pence had been successful in creating a media shield years ago, would it have prevented the current scandal? Pence says we don't know because the Justice Department still hasn't explained exactly what happened and why.
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