Washington, D.C. (6/21/2023) – Today, Representatives Kevin Kiley (R-CA-03) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD-08) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to uphold First Amendment Principles. A companion bill has been introduced by Senators Lee, Durbin, and Wyden in the US Senate. The PRESS Act unanimously passed the House in the 117th Congress.
“As acknowledged by America’s founders, the freedom of the press to report on and disseminate information is critical to our republic,” said Rep. Kiley. “Our bipartisan legislation further codifies these First Amendment principles into law and will mitigate infringement upon the Constitution by the federal government.”
“Our Constitution provides that no law shall abridge the freedom of the press and inspires us to protect journalists against government overreach and abuse of the subpoena power,” said Rep. Raskin. “Our bipartisan PRESS Act vindicates the promise of journalistic freedom. I’m grateful to Rep. Kiley and Sens. Wyden, Lee and Durbin for their partnership on this legislation and their recognition of press freedom as a fundamental democratic imperative.”
“In a world where information is power, the role of reporters as truth-seekers and watchdogs cannot be understated. Recent events, however, have cast a chilling shadow over their pursuits. Law-enforcement agencies have resorted to clandestine tactics, subpoenaing emails and phone records in an effort to unmask confidential sources,” said Senator Lee. “Not only is this legislation imperative to shield journalists from unnecessary government surveillance, but it is also necessary to protect the public’s right to access information, hold their elected officials accountable, and actively participate in representative government. We must seize this opportunity and ensure that the Fourth Estate remains an indomitable force in its quest for truth.”
Background: The PRESS Act ensures reporters cannot be compelled by the government to disclose their confidential sources or research files, and also protects their data held by third parties like phone and internet companies from being secretly seized by the government without the opportunity to challenge those demands in court. The bill shields journalists’ communications records from the government, with narrow exceptions for terrorism and threat of imminent violence or harm.
While 48 states and the District of Columbia have some form of shield law or reporter’s privilege, protections vary significantly, and there is no federal shield law, and the state laws do not apply to investigations by federal agencies, such as the DOJ. Importantly, there are currently no legal restrictions that prevent the government from secretly obtaining a reporter’s records directly from phone companies, email providers and other third parties in order to identify their sources.
It is endorsed by: News/Media Alliance, Radio Television Digital News Association, National Association of Broadcasters, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Demand Progress, American Civil Liberties Union, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Defending Rights and Dissent, PEN America, Center for Democracy & Technology, First Amendment Coalition, ARTICLE 19, Protect the 1st Foundation, Online News Association, Coalition For Women In Journalism, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, Government Information Watch, Institute for Nonprofit News, New York News Publishers Association, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, Granitt, Illinois Eagle, J. The Jewish News of Northern California, Tucson Sentinel and Arizona Press Club.
You can read the bill text here and a summary here.