In Media Shield Debate, Don’t Forget Business

Your blogging correspondent has an “On My Mind” column in today’s Forbes, “Too Much Freedom of the Press,” providing a business perspective on the debate over a federal media shield. Excerpt:

Should Congress enact a shield law to protect news reporters and their sources? The public could be forgiven for thinking there are only two sides to the issue. Over here are the heroic journalists, fighting to shield their sources, allowing information to flow freely in the service of the public good. Over there stands the Bush Administration, warning that a shield will encourage dangerous leaks of national security information.

Businesses watch this debate and ask, “What about the rest of us?” Many in the corporate world are seriously troubled by the potential damage from an overly broad federal media shield. The Free Flow of Information Act, passed overwhelmingly in the House and awaiting floor action in the Senate, would permit reporters in most cases to shield the identity of their sources, even from prosecutors or judges. But in endowing the media with that protection, the legislation could also have the unintended consequence of encouraging the theft or disclosure of trade secrets, confidential financial records and personal data.

The House legislation is H.R. 2102, which passed the House last October by a vote of 398-21. The Senate version is S.B. 2035.

Previous Shopfloor posts here, here and here and here.

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