Honorable Members of the House
Representing the People of the State of Florida.
Please Block HR 985 as it is written.
The First Amendment is one of the most critical to sustaining our open society and our democracy. Without a free press we are doomed.
One of the basic purposes of a free press is to shine a light on our government and our corporations in order to "keep them honest" Often articles are written that expose one form of corruption or another. The writers obtain their information from reliable sources who, without the guarantee of anonymity, would never come forth with the information. The basics of this bill are sound and necessary. They provide protection for writers who publish articles that disclose wrong doing and deception in our nation. Protection that says they shall not be compelled to reveal their confidential sources. Without this protection, those sources would dry up and journalism would become useless as a means to inform the public.
The Senate version of this bill understands...the House does not. This protection is directly tied to the preservation of the First Amendment freedoms of speech and of the press, because without information there can be no story. If any law serves to squash information from any source, it runs afoul of the constitution as well as the publics right to know.
The Constitution is blind to financial gain or employment or any profit motive when it comes to the protections it offers our citizens from government intrusion. When ever a government demands confidential sources be exposed it is intruding on the publics right to know and the writers freedom of the press because that threat places pressure on sources to remain silent rather than risk exposure. Such exposure could even subject both the source and the writer to grave physical danger under certain circumstances.
H.R. 985 contains a "definition" of who is a "journalist" then denies the equal protection of the law to all others who may exercise the same constitutional rights of expression by placing them in the position of endangering their sources and themselves if they were to write the Exact Same Article without being compensated.
Here is the present unacceptable wording:
(2) COVERED PERSON- The term 'covered person' means a person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.
Here is how I suggest it be altered prior to passage:
(2) COVERED PERSON- The term 'covered person' means a any person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news, images or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person.
In other words, strike any portion of this legislation that would place any employment or financial consideration from the definition of a "COVERED PERSON". Also strike any thing that stipulates the frequency with which a "COVERED PERSON" writes or publishes or that such person must be employed or supervised by anyone.
As a Internet professional and the author of several political opinion web sites, I deserve the same right to protection for anything I or any other on line writer may choose to publish regardless of any financial consideration being given for my work. Should I, in my publications of articles, attract the attention of someone with sensitive information who wishes to make that public, and if I believe this information is of such a nature that the public interest is served by publishing this information, your legislation would put me in the position of choosing between exercising my constitutional rights and my and/or my sources safety. Were this exact same information given to a "paid journalist" for publication, that person would be protected for publication of the EXACT same information with protections for having done so.
This creates a situation where I am denied the equal protection of the law for engaging in the same freedom of speech guaranteed to all citizens, paid or not.
Not only is this not constitutional, this constitutes a prior restraint on all forms of journalism based on financial gain and full-time employment. It does not serve the public interest to limit thier source of information only to paid media, which is often controlled by special interests with biased editorial policies.