October 3rd, 2009
12:20 PM ET
13 years ago

Journalists target Obama over 'shield law'

WASHINGTON (CNN)– Journalists are blasting President Obama over his stance on proposed legislation that would protect journalists from having to reveal the identity of their sources.

In an email sent out late Friday, the Society of Professional Journalists expressed 'outrage' over President Obama's proposed changes to the shield bill that would protect reporters from having to divulge confidential sources in court.

"Not long ago, President Obama was a key supporter of this bill, but after one meeting with his national security team he appears to have been scared into making this poor decision," SPJ President Kevin Smith said in a statement. SPJ cited an event in April 2008, where candidate Obama threw his support behind the proposed legislation, the Free Flow of Information Act.

"President Obama was elected by the people, for the people. It's time for him to stand up and support legislation that gives those people the power to have better oversight of their government," Smith said.

The Society of Professional Journalists, which was founded in 1909, has boast over 10,000 members nationwide. Its Their mission to promote "the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press."

Lawyers for journalists have often cited a 1972 Supreme Court ruling to say they were protected by the First Amendment from having to testify about confidential sources. But in 2003, a federal appeals court judge said that ruling does not protect journalists.

Thirty-six states (including Washington, D.C.) have enacted some form of shield law, but there is no Federal law protecting a reporter's privilege, which the sponsors of the Free Flow of Information hope to correct.

–Ram Ramgopal and Katie Glaeser contributed to this report

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. Bob in Pa

    A shield law give journalists too nuch protection that they can quote an unreliable source and never ever have to say I'm sorry for destroying someone's life.

    October 3, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  2. Enough

    He doesn't want transparency, he doesn't want us to know what is really going on, we would all be outraged and he knows it. Anyone feeling sucker punched by voting for him yet? Obama is all out for himself, not the good of the people, like he told them and they believed.

    Can't wait for 2012 to end the destruction and take over of OUR country.

    October 3, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  3. kimberly

    PLEASE Obama quit listening to the republicans!!!!!!!!!!!! This is their doing, more fear based crap! This has to stop, granted I would NEVER vote for a republican, especially as looney as the ones that are in the forefront now, but I will vote for someone else if you dont start doing what WE elected you to do and NOT what a bunch of nuts on the right want you to do. I have had it! WAKE UP! If you stop listening to nuts you can get things done. 76% of this country want health care reform, its in every national poll, just because some teabaggers scream loud does not make them the majority. Same here, journalism laws are in place for a reason, and no matter how much the republicans you are listening to on the security council HATE the constitution, it needs to be protected

    October 3, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  4. LouAz

    Society of Pro Journalist ? Is that a Bowling Team or what ?
    Never heard of them !

    October 3, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  5. Failure to Act NOW!!!! Please make me safe!!!

    Please, what he said before he was president does not mean crap, its what he wants to do now. Just another step in his real agenda. If he fails to act now....... we will not be safe, and we will not be safe in his eyes until we have no rights, now freedom, and no choice. You idiots that voted for this lier, should just live with it unitl you made better decisions in the future.

    October 3, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. Tom in Delaware

    Never mind what a man says, look at what he does.

    This is the real Obama.

    October 3, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  7. Debbie

    Torn on this issue. I think true journalist need protection. However, journalism today is far from professional. I would throw the whole bill out and start over.

    October 3, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    ethics should remain just that...ethics...once we start trying to legislate morality, choice and free will are lost and with them elements of our freedom

    but blanket immunity from revealing sources for an industry that has forgotten the true role of "journalism" and proven willing to treat fabrications as carrying equal weight to truth? WRONG. advertising revenue is a poor substitute for giving a sh-t. this needs to remain a CHOICE.

    October 3, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  9. LouAz

    Duh, isn't you fight with Congress ?
    The President does not make Law(s), Congress does. At least that is the way I read the Constitution. Where is your OUTRAGE against Congress ? Looked at you website, you were almost silent on this subject during the Bush years.

    October 3, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. FACT CHECK!!!!

    Thirty-six states (including Washington, D.C.) have enacted some form of shield law, but there is no Federal law protecting a reporter's privilege, which the sponsors of the Free Flow of Information hope to correct.***YEA BUT *** No Federal law protecting a reporter's privilege!!!

    October 3, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  11. G

    Didn't you guys just criticize him for always being on TV and incidently thereby having an open government unlike Bush who was never on TV and God knows what he did in the last 8 years. I don't like this Obama move but you guys sure contradict yourself (journalist/media).

    October 3, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  12. Ryan

    So the media wants transparency for everyone but themselves.

    They're obviously afraid that we'll know the sources for most of these stories are false and everything on networks like FOX is pure propaganda.

    October 3, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  13. Ray

    Crying over this, please you're not reporting the truth to begin with. With a shield law I can tell you a flat out lie and you can publish it with no recourse. There needs to be a law that says you can't report anything without real fact behind it. You don't need a shield law; you need some brains and REAL reporting. NEWS is not News anymore so the old laws really shouldn't be there to help you lie your way through a story or invoice your own thoughts; it should be nothing but the real deal.

    October 3, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  14. JO

    Tsk Tsk, the journalist's "Golden Boy" isn't playing ball, sorry journalists we are playing the smallest violin in the country for you.

    October 3, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain

    President Obama should not weaken the shield law. If sources don't have the protection of anonymity when talking to journalists, then they will be more reluctant to come forward.

    A strong federal shield law supports accountability and puts everyone – including the government – on notice that their illegal and/or unethical acts will be exposed.

    October 3, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  16. annie against biased news

    This would only apply to FOX the rest of the in-the-bed government run news media won't report anything about the goverrnment unless it glorifies obama. Journalism is dead! How can they have a society of professional journalist?
    Why worry about protecting journalist when there are only a handful left.

    October 3, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. Stu

    Sorry, journalists. I agree with the Prez on this one I guess. Journalists should absolutely have to reveal their sources in court, period, end of story. Too long have journalists tried to dictate poliicy based on non-verifiable sources. The media needs to remember that its job is to report the news, not create it or influence it.

    October 3, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  18. Charlie

    Who gives The Society of Professional Journalists with merely 10000 members the right to say that they represent the 300 million people that vote for Obama. That's pure political and only serves the special interest.

    October 3, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  19. www.healthcareforamerica.now

    The failure of legislation that protects journalists from having to reveal the identity of their sources would be a major blow to our way of life.

    Frankly, without such protection for journalists to keep their sources secret, it would be easier for unscrupulous people in government to cover up actions, undertaken in our name, that need to be exposed to the light.

    President Bush deserted the moral high ground. It is President Obama's duty and privilege to raise us back up again.

    Please, President Obama, do not lead us farther into the moral swamp by opposing this legislation.

    And please do not abandon the needs of millions of Americans in favor of corporate interests and the private health insurance oligarchy.


    October 3, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    The Society of Professional Journalists is actually a PAC headed by ex Republican congressmen. NOT a real organization.


    October 3, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  21. David Royall

    Wow...!! A 100 year-old society with 10,000 members nationwide wants to be the keepers of the free flow of our information. Not only that... but they want to continue to hide behind "unnamed sources" to educate and inspire "a well-informed citizenry". Now, isn't that special? I have a blog... can I play, too?

    October 3, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  22. ggb

    There is no telling who Obama will throw to the wolves....intel operatives or journalists. We are all going to be looking over our shoulder and telling all as long as Obama is in power. and YES, it is all about power.

    October 3, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  23. Thomas

    If journalists could be trusted to act professionally, this would be unnecessary.

    However, since professionalism in journalism seems to be waning, the courts must have the option of gathering needed information for criminal/civil trials.

    The question should be why would journalists be shielded when other professions are not?

    October 3, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  24. Hammerer

    In a state run media there is no need to protect journalist, just continue to repeat the talking points that the Great Leader gives you will have all the protection that you need.

    October 3, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  25. ICARE

    I smell 666 on the horizon.

    October 3, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
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