Abercrombie administration appears to be leading attack on journalist shield law

Just as I’m trying to slowly ease back into the world after my mother’s death, it was disappointing to read that the House Judiciary Committee, at the urging of the Abercrombie administration, has recommended stripping most protections from the state’s five-year old journalist “shield” law.

HB622, introduced by former Speaker Calvin Say and several members of his faction, would have made the broad protections of the current law permanent by deleting a “sunset” provision set to repeal the law at the end of this fiscal year.

However, the House Judiciary Committee reportedly amended the bill to cripple the law by dramatically limiting the circumstances under which its protections would apply. Unfortunately, as of this morning, the committee draft is not yet available on the capitol website.

Both the Star-Advertiser and Civil Beat reported today on the committee’s action.

This is doubly disappointing. It’s one of the first tests of the new and supposedly more progressive House leadership and so far, at least on this key measure, they have moved to the right of the former Lingle administration, which negotiated the current law with First Amendment and media activists back in 2008. It’s also disappointing that the push to strip away journalists’ protections is coming from Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie’s administration. I think a lot of us expected and continue to expect more from Neil.

A Star-Bulletin editorial in October 2007 noted that then-Congressman Abercrombie was the only House Democrat to vote to protect journalists against being forced to disclose confidential sources in federal court.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie, the lone Democrat to vote against a media shield law, is correct in arguing that the First Amendment alone should protect journalists from disclosing their confidential sources. Unfortunately, the federal courts have ruled otherwise and a shield law is needed to establish a modicum of protection with consistency throughout the U.S. judicial system.

I hope there’s still time for the Legislature and the governor to shift course and do the right thing by making the current law permanent.

13 responses to “Abercrombie administration appears to be leading attack on journalist shield law

  1. Sorry to learn this. I had thought Neil was turning the proverbial corner with his State of State address. I may have been wrong.

  2. Russel Yamashita

    What I find ironic is that there are only two testifying on this very important bill, the AG gutting the current law and a social services advocate supporting the end to the the sunset.

    Compare this to the attempt by the trial lawyers who sought to eliminate the immunity from liability for NRA instructors, which had one lobbyist supporting the bill and over 250 individuals opposing the bill.

    Seems like 1st Amendment doesn’t seem to attract the same amount of attention as the 2nd.

    • the NRA figured something out many years ago:

      it does not matter *what* you say.

      it matters how loud you can shout it. no matter how idiotic the garbage that is being spewed. the media will report your garbage. especially if no one else will bother talking to the media!! they gotta quote someone.

      • Russel Yamashita

        First of all, you sound like an elitist who believes the 1st amendment only applies to those who agree with you, everyone else doesn’t matter. Whether or not you agree with them or not, those 250+ people have the right to speak their mind. The minute we start telling people they have no rights, is when the totalitarian regime starts or civil war breaks out. In either case, everyone loses.

        Civil discourse makes for long drawn out meetings and airs issues, problems and allows people to see both sides of an issue. Our country allows for such forums at the legislature, neighborhood board meetings and other community meetings and gatherings. Solutions are not guaranteed, but often times provide for ground work for future resolution of problems.

        When you call my views “your garbage”, I don’t know who you are and really don’t care, becasuse you chose to hide behind a blog name and don’t even state what the issues are in the bills that were mentioned. Neither do you state what you object to in my comment or testimony which constitute “garbage” in your view.

        I have personally sponsored the ACLU table at the Hawaii Historic Arm Association’s gun show on several occasions in the last few years. Kit Grant (Director of Outreach-ACLU Hawaii), members of the board, and other ACLU volunteers were welcomed and enjoyed the two days spent at gun shows. The interaction between the 1st and 2nd amendment advocates were interesting and enlightenting for all those who took part.

        Had I known that such action was going to take place with regards to the shield bill, I would have submitted testimony to oppose such changes. I would also encourage those other 250+ people who stood up for the 2nd amendment to do the same for the shield bill.

        • LOL this was a general comment and HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU:
          “it matters how loud you can shout it. no matter how idiotic the garbage that is being spewed. the media will report your garbage.”

          if you still do not understand, the YOU in my comment is NOT referring to YOU! lol get a grip dude. i have no idea where the heck you are getting this one from: “sound like an elitist who believes the 1st amendment only applies to those who agree with you”

        • btw, i used to be a reporter.
          therefore, i must be a former reporter who DOES NOT SUPPORT the 1st amendment! sorry, but i cannot stop laughing this morning. Russel, where are you getting this stuff????? i would recommend not commenting after midnight!! or do you feel that comment violates your right to Free Speech! ok, i’ll stop now, Ian. this is just too good!

  3. First, quick note: when you wroye “Abercrombie was the only House Democrat to vote to protect journalists”, did you mean “to NOT vote”? Given the quote that follows above, it doesn’t seem to make sense otherwise.

    Second, I, too, was disappointed by these reports and, while I am concerned with what they portend, I’m not ready to write Karl Rhoads off, yet. In his years at the Capitol, first as a staffer then as a legislator, he has appeared rather stiff, but always earnest. Perhaps that earnestness makes him a little too dogmatic, doctrinaire, or whatever. I believe he means well and this quality can be trained out of him.

  4. Clean up politics…Elect women!

    • While I would generally agree, Rep. Karen Awana is at least one exception to that suggested solution to the problem of dirty politics.

      Repeatedly called before the Campaign Spending Commission for violations, she has refused to explain or even respond. As a result, fines have been assessed and she has either refused or ignored calls to pay for them. The Commission has now reportedly instituted court proceedings to collect the fines.

      How she got to be Majority Floor Leader eludes me. Let’s hope she doesn’t get any further until she gets herself straightened out. Or cleaned up. Whatever.

  5. Russel Yamashita

    Instead of wasting time and energy trying to clean up politics one of my friends said, “Eliminate politics, restore the monarchy, select new king like the first time – trial by combat, losers go over the Pali”!

    Yeah, I would rather elect my cat. We got what we got, so live with it.

    • i actually have no problem caving in to people who desperately want to go back to the past …… so long as I don’t need to pay a single penny when these fools starve themselves to death and become desperate slaves.

      seriously, we need to make it clear that going back in time only happens in movies like Back to the Future and Star Trek. change is going to happen. deal.

  6. It is sad to see this. A vibrant media is essential not only for protecting the poor and powerless but also for acting as a break on corruption. Lots of economic research shows that the strength of media outlets in a city directly correlate to improved economic prospects. Considering that Hawaii has already suffered pretty staggering blows to its media corps (even if Civil Beat has picked up some slack), ripping away shield law protection can’t help much.

  7. It seems ironic that so many politicos are seeking to curb shields available to journalists at this moment. Looking back over the last 30 or so years, you would have thought they would have tried to sneak in some of this stuff to debilitate the fourth estate. I am old enough to remember when journalists were not afraid to offend the sensibilities of politicians and powerful people with probing and incisive questions. I can even remember when Hawaii had people digging under the rug and making powerful circles squirm once in awhile.

    Now, when journalists aspire to get invitations to their private parties, junkets, conferences, get a reference for an anchor or network spot and/or private-sector jobs, they really want to curb powers here? I guess to make sure journalism is not practiced with too much vigor anymore.

    RIP normal society.

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