POSTED: 1:04 p.m. HST, Apr 7, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 3:31 p.m. HST, Apr 7, 2011
A Hawaii law protecting journalists from having to reveal anonymous sources and private notes is moving toward being renewed before it expires.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-0 on Thursday to extend the protection for two years. Otherwise, the so-called "shield law" would have ended June 30.
The vote came after a state Supreme Court committee on the rules of evidence submitted written testimony asking for the extension to conduct a review of the law.
Media lawyer Jeff Portnoy said the state judiciary should have asked for a review when the bill passed unanimously in 2008. "The judiciary considers it a matter of evidence," he said. "Obviously we disagree. They had three years to do it."
Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia have a permanent shield law, said Portnoy, who helped draft the bill. He said Hawaii's law is stronger than others because it protects online bloggers.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Clayton Hee said after the hearing the state judiciary's concerns are unclear. "I'm sure that will be clear when the report comes out," said Hee, D-Kahuku-Kaneohe.
Committee member Sen. Les Ihara, D-Kahala-Palolo, said he voted for the extension to keep the shield law alive.
"I would support making it permanent," he said. "It's better to move it forward and try to see what the judiciary has to say."
The Society of Professional Journalists and several media outlets including The Associated Press, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, West Hawaii Today, The Garden Island, Hawaii News Now, KITV, Honolulu Civil Beat, Hawaii Business and Hawaiireporter.com submitted testimony in support of making the law permanent.
"If we want investigative reporting in Hawaii and want people to feel comfortable that they can come forward with information, we need this law," said Malia Zimmerman of Hawaiireporter.com. Since 2007, she has been fighting a subpoena of her notes and records from her investigative reporting into a Kauai dam failure that killed seven people.
The measure now advances to the full Senate for further consideration.