House passes PRESS Act advancing press freedoms

If passed, the federal law would prohibit the government from compelling journalists and telecommunication providers to disclose sources and work product.

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Image Credit: European Journalism Observatory

The House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass the Protect Reporters from Exploitative State Spying Act (PRESS Act), HR 4250, a federal law that prohibits the government from compelling journalists and telecommunication providers to disclose sources and work product.

Co-sponsored by Reps. Kevin Kiley, R-Calif. and Jamie Raskin, D-Md. and a bipartisan group of 18 other representatives, the PRESS Act protects journalist’s First Amendment rights and is being called a victory for press freedoms.

“The PRESS Act provides journalists with long overdue protections of their First Amendment rights. Journalists should not be punished for keeping their sources confidential,” Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins, president of the Society of Professional Journalists National (SPJ), said. “SPJ urges the Senate to follow suit and pass this legislation quickly.”

The PRESS Act “also bars the government from spying on journalists’ phone records and search histories through third parties, like internet service providers, as a work-around, according to the ACLU.

“The PRESS Act creates critical protections for the journalists who keep all of us informed,” Jenna Leventoff, ACLU senior policy counsel, said. “The press is so vital to our democracy that protections for a free press were written into the First Amendment of the Constitution. By preventing the government from compelling the disclosure of sources, or spying on journalists as a work-around, this legislation will ensure that journalists across the country have the confidentiality they need to do their jobs.”

While journalists are protected at the state level, the PRESS Act “provides uniform protections to journalists across the country,” according to the ACLU.

The House already passed versions of the same bill in 2022 and 2007, but it never made it past the Senate. If passed by the Senate, the PRESS Act would be the first federal press shield law of its kind, SPJ reported.

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