By David G. Savage
September 12, 2013, 2:29 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Journalists and bloggers who report news to the public will be protected from being forced to testify about their work under a media shield bill passed by a Senate committee Thursday.
But the new legal protections will not extend to the controversial website WikiLeaks and others whose principal work involves disclosing “primary source documents … without authorization.”
Senate sponsors of the bill and a coalition of media groups that support it hailed Thursday’s bipartisan committee vote as a breakthrough.
“We’re closer than we’ve ever been before to passing a strong and tough media shield bill,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “Thanks to important bipartisan compromises, we’ve put together a strong bill that balances the need for national security with that of a free press.”
The final hurdle for the judiciary committee was defining who is a journalist in the digital era.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) insisted on limiting the legal protection to “real reporters” and not, she said, a 17-year-old with his own website. “I can’t support it if everyone who has a blog has a special privilege … or if Edward Snowden were to sit down and write this stuff, he would have a privilege. I’m not going to go there,” she said.
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