The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) joined a coalition of nearly 40 press freedom, civil liberties and other organizations – led by the Freedom of the Press Foundation – in a coalition letter urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to advance the PRESS Act to a vote before Congress adjourns.
The bipartisan act unanimously passed the House earlier this year, and would protect journalists from surveillance or compelled disclosure of source materials except in emergency situations.
The coalition letter follows a separate letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on behalf of 15 major news organizations including The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR and CNN.
From the letter:
Forty nine states, red and blue alike, have either passed shield laws or recognized some form of reporter’s privilege. The federal courts are the outlier and protections vary widely between appellate circuits, creating unpredictability for journalists and their sources. One federal appellate court admitted that journalists’ investigative capabilities “would be enhanced” if they were shielded from government-compelled disclosure. “But they are not,” it concluded, leaving journalists subject to intimidation and arrest for protecting sources.
The Fourth Estate is not free as long as prosecutors and investigators are empowered to commandeer newsrooms in disregard of the media’s constitutionally-recognized independence.
It is crucial that you act before this Congress adjourns so that journalists do not need to wait another decade or more for the protections they need to do their jobs effectively. By reaffirming your longtime commitment to First Amendment freedoms, you will be sending a powerful message to journalists and all Americans who rely on a free and vibrant press to participate in democracy.”