Introduced by Representatives Green of Berlin, Donahue of Northfield, Hosford of Waitsfield, Hutchinson of Randolph and Minter of Waterbury
Subject: Court procedure; news media privilege
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to prohibit any governmental body from compelling the news media to divulge a source, while providing limited protection to the media with regard to news and information obtained in the course of official news gathering.
AN ACT RELATING TO A NEWS MEDIA PRIVILEGE
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 12 V.S.A. chapter 219 is added to read:
CHAPTER 219. NEWS MEDIA PRIVILEGE
§ 7201. DEFINITION
As used in this chapter, “news media” means newspapers, magazines, journals, press associations, news agencies, wire services, radio, television, and any printed, photographic, mechanical, or electronic means of disseminating news and information to the public.
§ 7202. COMPELLED DISCLOSURE PROHIBITED
Except as provided in section 7203 of this title, no judicial, legislative, administrative, or other body with the power to issue a subpoena shall compel a person who is or has been employed by the news media in a news gathering or news disseminating capacity to disclose:
(1) The source of any news or information provided by the person while employed by the news media and acting in an official news gathering capacity, whether or not the source has been promised confidentiality; or
(2) Any news or information procured by the person while employed by the news media in the course of pursuing professional activities that is not itself communicated in the news media, including any notes, outtakes, photographs, photographic negatives, video or audio recordings, film, or other data.
§ 7203. EXCEPTIONS
(a) A court may compel disclosure of news or information otherwise protected from disclosure under subdivision 7202(2) of this title if it finds that the party seeking the news or information establishes by clear and convincing evidence that:
(1) the news or information is relevant to a significant legal issue before a judicial, legislative or administrative or other body that has the power to subpoena;
(2) the news or information could not, with due diligence, be obtained by alternative means; and
(3) there is an overriding public interest in the disclosure.
(b) A court shall not compel disclosure of the source of any information protected under section 7202 of this title.
§ 7204. NO IMPLICATION OF WAIVER
The publication by the news media or the dissemination by a person employed by the news media of a source of news or information, or a portion of the news or information, procured while pursuing professional activities shall not constitute a waiver of the protection from compelled disclosure as provided in section 7202 of this title.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street