Senator Duane Introduces Legislation Granting Protections To Journalist Bloggers

Thomas K. Duane

August 13, 2008

Albany – Noting that New York State must keep up with growing technology, Senator Thomas K. Duane (D, WFP-Manhattan) today announced legislation which would grant protections to journalist bloggers under New York's reporter's shield law. 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.

Senator Duane said, "New York has a proud tradition of having one of the strongest reporter's shield laws in the country. I was shocked to discover that in 2008, our law does not provide protections to journalist bloggers, when blogs are one of the fastest growing mediums for disseminating news. This glaring omission must not be allowed to continue."

Senator Duane pointed out that earlier this year 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 subpoena's existence – or face possible jail time. The subpoena was eventually withdrawn.

"This is just one example of journalist bloggers being threatened with civil and criminal penalties based solely on the content of their blog. If we do not enact my legislation, I can guarantee that we will witness more cases of journalist bloggers facing contempt charges and jail time," said Senator Duane. "This will have a chilling effect on free speech and bloggers' ability to aggressively report the news. It is time New York's shield law reflected the reality of 2008."

The bill is currently pending in the Senate Rules Committee.