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.
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.