Senator Duane and Assembly Member Rosenthal Announce Bill to Protect Journalist Bloggers' Rights

May 20, 2009

NEW YORK, NY – In recognition of New York State's tradition of strong protections for journalists, Senator Thomas K. Duane (D, WFP Manhattan) and Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal (D, WFP Manhattan) have recently introduced legislation (S.4642/A.6078) that would provide protection to journalist bloggers under New York's reporters' shield law.

New York's shield law, one of the strongest in the country, prevents journalists from being compelled to disclose confidential information or sources in state court. This new law would add journalist bloggers to the list of journalists who are protected from being charged with contempt of court for failing to disclose any news obtained in confidence or failing to provide the identity of a confidential source.

The current shield law protects professional journalists involved with newspapers, magazines, news agencies, press associations, wire services, radio and television. The legislation also defines a web log or blog as a website or web page that contains an online journal containing news, comments and offers hyperlinks provided by the writer.

Senator Thomas K. Duane, who introduced the bill in the Senate, stated, "The media is changing, both in content, access and scope. It is important that the laws of New York State reflect the changing landscape of journalism. Enacting this legislation will ensure that those reporters who write for a blog are given the same protections as traditional print or television journalists. If we don't, we face a chilling effect on free speech and journalists' ability to aggressively report the news. It is time New York's shield law reflected the reality of 2009 and acknowledges that blogs do exist."

"New York State has one of the strongest reporters' shield laws in the country," said Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal. "Yet, although blogs provide news to countless New Yorkers, we still do not extend the protection of the law to blogger journalists. We must remedy this by affording bloggers the same rights that we offer other journalists. I call on my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate to support this legislation and the right to free speech."

In 2008, a grand jury subpoena issued by the Bronx District Attorney was sent to the blog Room 8 in an attempt to identify people blogging anonymously on the website. The subpoena threatened the bloggers not to disclose the existence of the subpoena &ndash or face possible jail time. The subpoena was eventually withdrawn.

The bill is currently pending in the Senate Codes and the Assembly Government Operations committees.

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