Another attempt from Congressional Democrats to define the media faces a shaky future. If Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) is right, the so-called media “shield law” bill, which essentially segments application of the 1st Amendment to lock out citizen journalists while favoring members of the media establishment, will never see a floor vote – even though it has been awaiting action since last September.
The Free Flow of Information Act, which in its original version died in the 110th Congress, is designed to codify who is (and who isn’t) protected from subpoenas, as well as who can be compelled to reveal their sources in court. Supported by media companies and opposed by bloggers, the bill seeks, for the first time, to augment 1st Amendment guarantees of free speech by affording card-carrying journalists the right to refuse to testify against sources, while denying independent reporters from all walks of life that same protection.
The bill is co-authored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindesey Graham (R-S.C.), which probably tells you all you need to know. Schumer said last week the measure could come up for a Senate vote at any time, boasting that “we have the 60 votes” needed for passage.
Cornyn scoffed at that assertion this week, telling Breitbart Schumer doesn’t have that kind of support for the vote – and he knows it:
He’s bluffing, Cornyn retorts.
“If he had the votes to pass it, it already would have been passed,” Cornyn says, adding, “This isn’t about passing legislation, this is about distracting the public’s attention and changing the subject from the failed policies of this administration. I think you could put this in that same category.”
“…They want to pick and choose which journalists are covered,” the Texan Republican told Breitbart News. “In other words, if you’re a blogger they might not cover you, but if you work for the New York Times they might. Given the changes in the way we get information and the way we consume news, that really smacks to me in essence of government licensing who’s an official ‘journalist’ for the purposes of a shield law and who’s not. If there is one thing I can glean from the First Amendment, it is that government should not be in the business of licensing the news media.”
That’s a hard argument to rebut on the merits, and involving government in the business of defining its watchers doesn’t make good political sense, either.
Indeed, in a midterm election year in which embattled Democrats and their moderate GOP peers need a rallying point to ensure they hang on to their incumbencies, it’s a puzzling political strategy to push legislation that offends the sensibilities of a public already fed up with near-daily revelations of government infringements on their civil liberties.
Cornyn said he believes Senators who support the bill are clearly placing short-term, pet-issue politics ahead of both big-picture political strategizing and the good of the American people.
“Cornyn believes the bill’s timing – and the administration’s backing of it – appears to be aimed at alleviating criticism of the Justice Department’s secret attainment of Associated Press phone conversations and the administration’s similar actions against Fox News’ James Rosen, among other media targeting,” Breitbart reports.
“You remember when this [bill] was recently resurrected? It was essentially an attempt to deflect… from the Department of Justice and this administration… the criticism they were taking [from] James Rosen and other traditional journalists. So, I really question the timing of all of this,” Cornyn said.