senate Bill S2353

2013-2014 Legislative Session

Expands the exemption provided to professional journalists and newscasters from contempt to include employment or association with a web log

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Archive: Last Bill Status - In Committee


  • Introduced
  • In Committee
  • On Floor Calendar
    • Passed Senate
    • Passed Assembly
  • Delivered to Governor
  • Signed/Vetoed by Governor

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Assembly Actions - Lowercase
Senate Actions - UPPERCASE
Jan 08, 2014 referred to codes
Jan 16, 2013 referred to codes

S2353 - Bill Details

See Assembly Version of this Bill:
A727
Current Committee:
Law Section:
Civil Rights Law
Laws Affected:
Amd ยง79-h, Civ Rts L
Versions Introduced in Previous Legislative Sessions:
2011-2012: S1232, A1462
2009-2010: S4642, A6078

S2353 - Bill Texts

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Expands the exemption provided to professional journalists and newscasters from contempt to include employment or association with a web log; defines web log as a website or webpage that contains an online journal containing news, comments and offers hyperlinks provided by the writer.

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BILL NUMBER:S2353

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the civil rights law, in relation to
exemptions provided to professional journalists and newscasters from
contempt

PURPOSE: Expands the exemption provided to professional journalists
and newscasters from contempt to include employment or association
with a web log (blog).

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:

Section One of the bill amends paragraph 8 of subdivision (a) of
section 79-h of the civil rights to include "web log" as a medium that
can be used by a "professional journalist."

Section Two of the bill amends subdivision (a) of section 79-h of the
civil rights law by adding a new paragraph 9 to define "web log" as a
website or webpage that contains an online journal containing news,
comments and offers hyperlinks provided by the professional journalist
or newscaster.

Section Three amends subdivision (b) of section 79-h of the civil
rights law to include "web log" as a medium that a professional
journalist and newscasters may use to receive protection for
confidential news and receive exemption from contempt.

EXISTING LAW: New bill.

JUSTIFICATION: Currently, professional journalists involved with
newspapers, magazines, news agencies, press associations, wire
services, radio or television are protected from being charged with
contempt of court for failing to disclose any news obtained in
confidence or failing to provide the identity of a confidential
source.

New York has a proud tradition of having one of the strongest
reporter's shield laws in the country. Yet, in 2011, New York law does
not provide protections to journalist bloggers - one of the fastest
growing mediums for obtaining news. This glaring omission must not be
allowed to continue.

A grand jury subpoena issued by the Bronx District Attorney was sent
to the blog Room 8 in an attempt to identify people blogging
anonymously on the website. The subpoena threatened the bloggers not
to disclose the existence of the subpoena - or face possible jail
time. The subpoena was eventually withdrawn.

If legislation is not enacted, there will be more cases of journalist
bloggers facing contempt charges and jail time. This will have a
chilling effect on free speech and a bloager's ability to aggressively
report the news. It is time New York's shield law reflected the
reality of 2011 and acknowledge that blogs do exist.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2006: S.8746 (Duane), Died in Rules 2009: S.4642
(Duane), Died in Rules; A-6078 (Rosenthal), Died in Government


Operations 2010: S.4662 (Duane), Died on 3rd Reading; A.6078
(Rosenthal), Died in Government Operations 2011-2012: S.1232/A/1462
(Duane/Rosenthal) Died in Senate Codes/Assembly Government Operations
Committee

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.

LOCAL FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.

EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.

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                    S T A T E   O F   N E W   Y O R K
________________________________________________________________________

                                  2353

                       2013-2014 Regular Sessions

                            I N  S E N A T E

                            January 16, 2013
                               ___________

Introduced  by  Sen. HOYLMAN -- read twice and ordered printed, and when
  printed to be committed to the Committee on Codes

AN ACT to amend the civil rights law, in relation to exemptions provided
  to professional journalists and newscasters from contempt

  THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND  ASSEM-
BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

  Section 1. Paragraph 6 of subdivision (a) of section 79-h of the civil
rights law, as amended by chapter 468 of the laws of 1981, is amended to
read as follows:
  (6)  "Professional journalist" shall mean one who, for gain or liveli-
hood, is engaged in gathering, preparing, collecting, writing,  editing,
filming, taping or photographing of news intended for a newspaper, maga-
zine,  news  agency,  press association [or], wire service or WEB LOG OR
other professional medium or agency which has  as  one  of  its  regular
functions  the  processing  and researching of news intended for dissem-
ination to the public; such person  shall  be  someone  performing  said
function either as a regular employee or as one otherwise professionally
affiliated for gain or livelihood with such medium of communication.
  S  2.  Subdivision  (a)  of  section  79-h  of the civil rights law is
amended by adding a new paragraph 9 to read as follows:
  (9) "WEB LOG" SHALL MEAN A WEBSITE OR WEBPAGE THAT CONTAINS AN  ONLINE
JOURNAL  CONTAINING NEWS, COMMENTS AND OFFERS HYPERLINKS PROVIDED BY THE
PROFESSIONAL JOURNALIST OR NEWSCASTER.
  S 3. Subdivision (b) of section 79-h  of  the  civil  rights  law,  as
amended  by  chapter  33  of  the  laws  of  1990, is amended to read as
follows:
  (b)  Exemption  of  professional  journalists  and  newscasters   from
contempt: Absolute protection for confidential news. Notwithstanding the
provisions  of  any  general or specific law to the contrary, no profes-
sional journalist or newscaster  presently  or  having  previously  been
employed  or  otherwise  associated  with  any newspaper, magazine, news

 EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                      [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                           LBD02023-01-3

S. 2353                             2

agency, press association, wire service, WEB LOG,  radio  or  television
transmission station or network or other professional medium of communi-
cating  news  or information to the public shall be adjudged in contempt
by  any court in connection with any civil or criminal proceeding, or by
the legislature or other body having contempt powers, nor shall a  grand
jury  seek  to  have  a journalist or newscaster held in contempt by any
court, legislature or other body having contempt powers for refusing  or
failing  to  disclose any news obtained or received in confidence or the
identity of the source of  any  such  news  coming  into  such  person's
possession  in the course of gathering or obtaining news for publication
or to be published in a newspaper, magazine, WEB LOG or for broadcast by
a radio or television transmission station  or  network  or  for  public
dissemination  by  any  other professional medium or agency which has as
one of its main functions the dissemination of news to  the  public,  by
which  such person is professionally employed or otherwise associated in
a news gathering capacity notwithstanding that the material or  identity
of  a  source  of such material or related material gathered by a person
described above performing a function described above is or is not high-
ly relevant to a particular inquiry of  government  and  notwithstanding
that  the  information was not solicited by the journalist or newscaster
prior to disclosure to such person.
  S 4. This act shall take effect immediately.

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