Senate Asks for Greater Protections for Journalists

  • 09/05/2013
  • Reporters Desk

SACRAMENTO – On Sept. 4, The California Senate today approved and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown a bill mandating that reporters and their news organizations be given five days’ notice of any subpoenas of their records held by others.

Those records include phone calls or other invasions of their newsgathering communications, according to Senate Bill 558, sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. The measure specifically applies to third-party vendors.

Sen. Ted Lieu introduced SB 558 after recent reports showed the federal government secretly collected the phone records of the Associated Press by going after third-party vendors, such as phone companies, Internet-service providers, hotels and car-rental firms. The wiretaps of AP phone records included calls from several East Coast bureaus and more than 20 lines, including personal phones and AP phone numbers in New York; Hartford, Connecticut; and Washington D.C.  The records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period.

California already has a shield law that requires law enforcement to give five days’ advance notice to news organizations for subpoenas served on the actual news company or reporter.  But the U.S. Department of Justice just gave a roadmap on ways to bypass the shield law by going after firms like telephone or communications companies that have personal and work-related information of journalists.

Gov. Brown has until Oct. 13 to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

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