Vermont Governor Signs Media Shield Law

MONTPELIER, Vt. - Protecting journalists and their confidential sources, it's a new law Governor Phil Scott signed Wednesday.

It's been dubbed the media shield bill, it blocks any court from requiring journalists to share the identity of confidential sources and unpublished work.

"In another time we wouldn't even be discussing shield laws but now we have a President of the United States who wants to basically punish the press,” said Garrison Nelson, UVM Political Science Professor.

Nelson says Vermont has always been proactive on this issue dating back to the late 1700s when Congressman Matthew Lyon was arrested after the newspaper he owned in Fair Haven criticized President John Adams and the Federalist Party.

Nelson said, "But the good people of Fair Haven re-elected him to congress out of jail, so Vermont was a pioneer in that particular regard.”

Vermont joins 40 other states with such a law. The signing comes one day after the New York Times reported President Donald Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to jail journalists who report classified information.

“The media is not the opposition party, the first amendment belongs to all of us and it protects everybody,” said Paul Heintz, Vermont Press Association.

It's an issue that saw strong support in the House and Senate. Supporters say it's not only about protecting reporters and news organizations, but the sources themselves.

Scott said, "This protection enables sources from whistle-blowers to victims of a crime to feel confident in their ability to speak freely with the press.”

Nelson says a shield wasn't necessarily a need, but believes Vermont is certainly better off with such a law in place, "I think the key is you want to protect the journalists against an administration that is at war with the press."

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