The History Of Media Shield Laws

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This paper will discuss the history of media shield laws in the U.S. and Hawaii. It will argue the pros and cons of the need and importance of such shield laws in Hawaii to help enhance the First Amendment. According to the West 's Encyclopedia of American Law (n.d.) shield laws are statues that “make communications between news reporters and informants confidential and privileged, freeing journalists of the obligation to testify about them in court.” The encyclopedia compares this to a doctor-patient, lawyer-client or priest-parishioner privilege. Where these laws are in action, journalists are free to protect their sources. If subpoenaed by a state court, journalists are free to refuse to give up their confidential sources or unpublished material. This makes it easier for journalists to report on a broad variety of topics, but these laws are also controversial because they challenge the government interests when it comes to bringing criminals to justice (Shield Laws, n.d.). Research shows that Hawaii used to have a shield law – the best in the country according to several people – but it was overturned in 2013. Today, 49 states and the District of Colombia have implemented shield laws of different variation of protection (Riker, 2015). At the same time, there does not exist any media shield laws at the federal level (Shield Laws 101, n.d.). History of Shield Laws The first documented case of the need for shield laws for journalists found place in 1848. A journalist was
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