Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sample Letter to Your Senator / Congressman Demanding a Media Shield Law H.R. 1962/S. 987

Sample letter to representatives and senators on H.R. 1962/S. 987

Free Flow of Information Act

Address for Representatives: Address for Senators:

The Honorable (first name) (last name) The Honorable (first name) (last name)

U.S. House of Representatives United States Senate

Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20510

Dear Representative ____________: Dear Senator ____________:

I am writing you today to request that you co-sponsor H.R. 1962 (if letter to Representative) or S. 987 (if letter to Senator), the Free Flow of Information Act, which would safeguard the public’s right to know by protecting the identities of journalists’ confidential sources.

For centuries, journalists have relied on confidential sources to produce groundbreaking investigative reporting. The Associated Press learned in May that the Justice Department had obtained call records of more than 100 AP journalists in a classified leak investigation. The AP received no notice before the Justice Department obtained the records, and thus could not challenge the subpoena in court. The subpoena was so broad that it swept up information that had absolutely nothing to do with the government’s investigation, including reporters’ interviews with members of Congress from phones in the House of Representatives press gallery. In addition, it was revealed in May that the Justice Department monitored Fox News reporter James Rosen’s personal e-mail and cell phone records.

These stunning revelations demonstrate the need for a federal shield law. The legislation would establish clear and uniform rules ─ administered by an independent federal judge ─ on when confidential source information can be obtained from journalists and their records.

A shield law not only protects journalists, but it also preserves the public’s right to know. If potential sources, including government whistleblowers, fear the government is listening in or can track communications with the press, these sources will not come forward with information that could reveal waste, fraud and abuse. Ultimately, the public will lose the ability to hold the government accountable.

The Free Flow of Information Act does not give a free pass to the media or their sources. The bill establishes a privilege that would be qualified, not absolute. The legislation sets forth reasonable and well-balanced ground rules for when a journalist can be compelled to testify about confidential sources, including where information is needed to prevent an act of terrorism or other significant harm to national security.

The only check on government power is a free and independent press. I urge you to demonstrate your support for this fundamental American value by adding your name as a co-sponsor of the Free Flow of Information Act.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

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