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With Senators Set to Consider Shield Law Thursday, First Amendment Advocates Push for Passage

Free press advocates are stepping up efforts to raise support for the Free Flow of Information Act, as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to consider the federal shield law legislation on Thursday.

“Journalists work hard every day to give life to the promise of the First Amendment. The ability to protect confidential sources is the oxygen that investigative reporting needs to survive,” a media coalition supporting the act writes in a letter  sent to Judiciary Committee members Monday afternoon. The letter is signed by the Authors Guild, along with news companies, media trade groups and other First Amendment supporters.

Coalition leaders are also asking advocacy organizations to encourage their members to call senators who serve on the committee and urge passage of the legislation.

Interest in a federal shield law was reignited earlier this year after revelations that the Justice Department secretly obtained the emails of a Fox News reporter and the phone records of Associated Press reporters. Outrage over the revelations led Attorney General Eric Holder to issue new guidelines for obtaining journalists’ records while investigating leaks. The current legislation, based on a 2009 bill that made it through committee but failed to become law, would expand on and codify those new DOJ guidelines.

The Judiciary Committee began considering the bi-partisan legislation on Aug. 1, but postponed a vote until after the August recess. In its letter, the coalition urges the committee to support the bill and oppose any amendments that would weaken it.