Protection for journalists set to expire - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Protection for journalists set to expire

Clayton Hee Clayton Hee
Jeff Portnoy Jeff Portnoy
Malia Zimmerman Malia Zimmerman
Gerald Kato Gerald Kato
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

House Bill 622 was amended Tuesday by House lawmakers to extend the life of the Shield Law by two years. But the Senate didn't vote to adopt the amendment and voted instead on its own version of the bill that was amended by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Clayton Hee.

Media attorney Jeff Portnoy called that version an abomination.

"It deleted all of the protection for anyone who doesn't work for a paid, printed or broadcast publication," he said.

With two different versions the bill dies and the law expires at the end of June.  That worries online journalist Malia Zimmerman.

"Is it worth it for us to put ourselves on the line personally, professionally and also financially to be able to bring these stories to the public, and take the risk of having to go to court or prison to defend our sources and our information?" she said.

The Shield Law has permitted reporters to protect confidential sources and information. Supporters of the law said it does not protect a reporter from shoddy journalism or defamation.

Portnoy accused Hee of being out to get the media.

"The way one man could dictate the demise of the Shield Law is something that should concern the entire public," Portnoy said.

"This process that we've had to endure for the past couple of months has taken a good law and made it mush," Media Council Hawaii member Gerald Kato said.

Hee was not available for comment. But in his defense Senate majority leader Brickwood Galuteria said the House amended the bill without consulting the Senate.

"To introduce such a substantive change, moments before the Senate began its floor session, lacked the transparency and openness that the public expects and deserves," he said.

Besides Hawaii, 38 other states have a shield law for journalists. Soon Hawaii will no longer be on that list.


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