The American Ethical Union, recognizing that freedom of the press is essential for a democracy, has, with concern, witnessed the increasing attacks upon the news media, and, consequently, upon the right of the public to know.
Regarding it as imperative to insure that the flow of information from individuals through the news media to the public remains free from Government intrusion, and to safeguard the constitutional right which we all have in the free flow of news, and believing that the confidentiality of the relationship between a newsman and his sources is basic to the protection of 1st Amendment guarantees, the American Ethical Union calls upon the Congress to enact an absolute shield law, designed to give newsmen complete protection from forced disclosure of their confidential sources.
We believe that the enactment of a qualified, rather than an absolute, "shield law" would constitute limitation of freedom of the press, rather than protection of freedom of the press, and would contravene the First Amendment's injunction that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."
The American Ethical Union respectfully urges the enactment by Congress of a law no less absolute than Ohio's law, in existence for these past many years, which recognizes, in the following provisions, the basic value of protecting the confidential relationship between a newsman and his source:
Unless members of the news media can safely preserve the confidentiality of their relationship with their sources of information, we will be assuring the ominous power of those in government who would intimidate critics, stifle opposition, and conceal practices not in the public interest.
Submitted by AEU PAC [Public Affairs] Committee
Source: AEU 65th Annual Assembly Memo [job08scan]
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