Wednesday, February 23, 2011


WEARING PROTECTION: The reporters’ shield law passed by the legislature last year has quickly become an essential tool in the dissemination of information. It has allowed us to give the same confidentiality to sources this year that we have given in past decades only without the fear of having to go to jail for protecting the identities of whistleblowers.

Although we were never put in that situation it’s something that has happened to reporters across the country in states without a shield law. And there is no federal shield law for cases in federal courts.

The new law has allowed us to turn what used to be sometimes agonizing decisions into no-brainers, not just for we reporters but for sources as well who can now pass on information without fear of repercussions.

Of course we’d prefer to always name our sources but, especially on a small island like Kaua`i, we understand some people’s reluctance to come forward and attach their names. It does make our job a little bit more difficult since it often requires extra diligent double-checking for anonymously reported information, especially if there is no document involved.

But in their infinite lack of wisdom legislators put a “sunset date” of June 30, 2011 on the law meaning it must be passed one more time this year without any sunset date.

The good news is that House Bill 1376 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday with a unanimous vote and seems destined to move over to the Senate where it should have clear sailing.

But the bad news is that, as Civil Beat’s Sara Lin reported yesterday:

The final decision on any proposed extension of the law could ultimately lie with Gov. Neil Abercrombie. We've noted that he was the only Democrat in the U.S. House to vote against a bill that would have protected the confidentiality of reporters' sources in most federal court cases.

It’s hard to imagine his objections but it’s more important than ever that the bill pass both the house and senate with veto-proof majorities. Although no other hearings are currently scheduled it can’t hurt to send letters of support to all representatives ( and senators (

Though the law has perceptibly helped us in our reporting over the last year, the assurance of a shield law is doubly important for sources who are now assured that a reporter will not have pick between spending weeks in jail or caving to prosecutors bent on digging out their sources, as has happened in some cases recently.

Help us help you and support HB 1376.

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