WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. House passed Representative Kevin Kiley (R-CA) and Representative Jamie Raskin’s (D-MD) bill H.R. 4250, the PRESS Act. This bipartisan legislation ensures reporters cannot be compelled by the government to disclose their confidential sources or research files, and 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.
“Liberty depends on the freedom of the press. Journalists are often the first to expose government fraud, waste, abuse and encroachments on personal freedoms. A critical aspect of the freedom of the press is the pursuit of truth without government entanglements or intimidation. Administrations from both political parties have unjustly targeted journalists and used compulsory process to obtain information from them about their sources. Most states have protected journalists from such interference, and it is past time for Congress to do so as well,” said Rep. Kiley.
“With today’s vote, America moves closer to establishing our first federal press shield law. This legislation protects the constitutional promise of a free press and vindicates our founding principle of journalistic freedom for a self-governing people.
“The PRESS Act will finally create a federal statutory privilege to protect journalists from being compelled to reveal confidential sources and to prevent the abuse of subpoena power. Reporters depend on discretion and confidentiality to keep the American public informed, and should never have to worry that their emails or phone records will be subject to compulsory process.”
“I’m delighted to share this exciting legislative victory with my colleague—and my former law student at Yale Law School—Congressman Kevin Kiley of California. Our partnership demonstrates that press freedom remains a fundamental and bipartisan commitment in the United States,” said Rep. Raskin.
Click here to view Representative Kiley’s remarks.
Background: While 48 states and the District of Columbia have some form of shield law or reporter’s privilege, protections vary significantly, and the state laws do not apply to investigations by federal agencies, such as the DOJ or FBI. Passing this bill mitigates these shortcomings and brings consistency to an important freedom of speech issue. The bill shields journalists’ communications records from the government, with narrow exceptions for terrorism and threat of imminent violence or harm.
You can read the bill text here and a summary here.