Journalists' Privilege: Overview of the Law and 109th Congress Legislation

Publication Date: October 2006

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Media, telecommunications, and information



Journalists, the Supreme Court has written, claim "that to gather news it is often necessary to agree either not to identify the source of information published or to publish only part of the facts revealed, or both; that if the reporter is nevertheless forced to reveal these confidences to a grand jury the source so identified and other confidential sources of other reporters will be measurably deterred from furnishing publishable information, all to the detriment of the free flow of information protected by the First Amendment." Though the Supreme Court concluded that the First Amendment does not provide a journalists' privilege, 49 states have adopted a journalists' privilege, and bills to adopt a journalists' privilege have been introduced in the 109th Congress, 1st session, in both the House and the Senate (S. 1419 and H.R. 3323). In addition, S. 2831 was introduced in the 109th Congress, 2d session.