Vermont passes law giving legal protection to journalists with confidential sources

Last week, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed new legislation that protects journalists’ confidential sources. The bill makes it illegal for journalists in the state to be forced to give up an informant’s identity or face legal prosecution for refusing to do so.

The law extends to potential state government whistle blowers, or other individuals leaking government information.

Scott believes the law helps protect and encourage people to speak to journalists when they feel they have something important to say.

“This protection enables sources, from whistleblowers to victims of a crime, to feel confident in their ability to speak freely with the press, ensuring accountability and giving the vulnerable a voice without fear,” Scott said just before signing the bill.

After the law was officially enacted, Vermont news editor Paul Heintz, who lobbied for the bill, said it “will serve as a reminder that in such troubling times, it’s incumbent for us as journalists to stand up for our rights.”

“For too long, this state has allowed its judicial system to haul journalists up on the stand and compel them to testify with few limitations,” he said. “For too long, the state has allowed overzealous attorneys to force reporters to disclose unpublished information and reveal the identities of confidential sources.”

Vermont is not the only state with a law like this on the books. Over 30 states in the union also have laws stipulating certain protections for journalists.

Some professional journalists are starting to feel anxious since Donald Trump became America’s 45th president. The former New York businessman has made his disdain for the mainstream media widely apparent and reportedly even encouraged former FBI Director James Comey to imprison journalists who publish leaks from anonymous sources.

In the last few weeks, the Trump administration has faced scandal after scandal, many revealed with the help of confidential sources, and documents leaked to the press by various White House staff and other government employees.

 

[AP] [Vermont Public Radio] [VTDigger] [CNN] [Photo courtesy Stefan Hard/Times Argus via Vermont Press Bureau]