Congressional shield-law debate risks consigning student journalists to second-class legal status

There is exuberance -- cautious exuberance, to be sure, among those who've been to the threshold too many times -- that, as a byproduct of the Obama administration's shameful mistreatment of journalists, Congress will soon enact a reporter's privilege that protects journalists against demands to disclose their confidences.Largely lost in that exuberance is the vast distinction between competing versions of the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2013" in the House and Senate -- a distinction that could literally mean the difference between prison and freedom for student journalists.The reporter's privilege (or "reporter shield") enables a journalist to refuse to give testimony or surrender unpublished information in connection with a police investigation or legal proceeding.

Hawaii risks turning one of America’s best reporter’s privilege laws into one of the worst

Urged on by the state attorney general, a Hawaii Senate committee is proposing to drastically narrow the state's 2008 reporter shield statute, putting the ability of student journalists to protect confidential sources at risk.In amendments approved Wednesday, a Senate committee pared back the scope of the reporter's privilege so that it would benefit only journalists "professionally associated" with traditional news organizations.The current Hawaii statute enables two classes of people to protect their unpublished material and the identity of their sources if confronted with a demand in connection with a legal proceeding:(1) "[A] journalist or newscaster presently or previously employed by or otherwise professionally associated with any newspaper or magazine or any digital versiona thereof."(2) A person who can demonstrate by "clear and convincing evidence" that he or she "has regularly and materially participated in the reporting or publishing of news or information of substantial public interest for the purpose of dissemination to the general public" or that he or she occupies a position "materially similar or identical to that of a journalist or newscaster."It's that second class of protected people that Attorney General David M.