By Derrick DePledge
The Media Council of Hawaii on Friday urged state lawmakers to reject the conference draft of a news media shield law.
In a letter, Chris Conybeare, the council's president, and Gerald Kato, a board member, argue that the legislation is regressive because it removes protections for bloggers and other non-traditional journalists.
The bill offers limited protection to traditional journalists, such as newspaper, television and radio reporters, from having to disclose confidential sources or other information in court.
The Media Council of Hawaii is part of the Hawaii Shield Law Coalition, a collection of news media interests that had wanted lawmakers to simply extend the shield law beyond its expiration date by July.
The final votes on the bill are scheduled next week.
From the Media Council:
This legislation’s requirement that newspapers must be printed to be protected excludes protection from important sources of online news and public affairs such as Civil Beat and Hawai`i Reporter locally, and the Huffington Post nationally. Free newspapers such as the Honolulu Weekly and Midweek would be excluded. The bill flies in the face of what is happening in the digital age.
Trying to tie journalists to commercial interests as this bill does is shortsighted. Many write truthful information of public concern without pay. Hawai`i Legal News, Ilind.net, DisappearedNews.com, AllHawaiiNews.com are just a few examples. They disseminate news and information to the public in the same way that newspapers, television and radio do.
Media Council of Hawai`i supports the belief that what matters to the quality of democracy is the quality of independent, honest, accurate, journalism, not the means by which it is distributed.
We need more journalism not less. This bill severely restricts journalism and journalists to such narrow definitions that it diminishes rather than enhance freedom of the press.