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New Hawaii shield law draft cuts out free, online-only media

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:25 p.m. HST, Apr 25, 2013

A panel of Hawaii lawmakers approved a new draft of the state shield law today that removes protections for free newspapers and magazines and requires that newspapers must be printed in order to be covered.

Hawaii’s shield law, which protects journalists from revealing sources and notes in court proceedings, is set to expire in June. The proposal, approved by a committee of negotiators, would make the law permanent but also drastically limit its scope.

The bill now goes to the House and Senate floors for a vote.

Sen. Clayton Hee, chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, has been pushing to change the law, saying the language is too vague. He has also criticized Hawaii’s media for making mistakes and said some online media is mean-spirited.

Hee added the bill amendments that cut protections for free newspapers and magazines and the requirement that newspapers must be printed, not digital.

Rep. Karl Rhoads said he disagreed with those changes but thought that the latest draft was better than no shield law at all.

“It’s not my favorite bill,” he said. “I can’t say I’m really happy, it’s just — that’s the nature of compromise.”

News media advocates say the shield law encourages investigative journalism and allows whistleblowers to come forward. But the state attorney general agreed with Hee and said that Hawaii’s law is too broad because it gives protections to non-traditional journalists.

The current law has some exceptions, including in felony and defamation cases. The new proposal extends the exceptions to include civil cases, potential felonies and serious crimes when someone is unlawfully injured.

Rep. Cynthia Thielen, the only committee member to vote against the proposal, said she supports simply making the current law permanent rather than changing it.

“We have the best shield law in the nation and we recognize that the media has changed,” she said. “This bill is almost punitive.”

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Changalang wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on April 25,2013 | 05:09PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Agreed. Just became a little tougher to hear what's happening behind those closed doors.
on April 25,2013 | 06:08PM
Changalang wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on April 25,2013 | 08:20PM
OldDiver wrote:
Hee is no friend of the United States Constitution.
on April 25,2013 | 09:11PM
islandmom wrote:
Are our leaders that afraid of investigative journalists? Outlets like Honolulu Weekly or Civil Beat or Hawaii Reporter? We've all read about how Clayton Hee used the "Dewey Wins" headline to show irresponsible reporting. Does something that happened in the 1940s matter at all today? This is really shameful as I was pretty sure that we lived in a democracy. A society that muzzles its journalists should be ashamed of itself. If you care, call your legislators!
on April 25,2013 | 06:06PM
honokai wrote:
Ian Lind ran some blog pieces on Clayton Hee's failure to file complete ethical disclosures. See "powerful Senator files false ethics reports story" ---- http://www.ilind.net/2011/05/21/politically-powerful-state-senator-files-false-ethics-reports/#sthash.shSpgxFv.dpbs well, perhaps "Ian Lind" is "the mean spirit of the online media". No wonder people want to be shielded when such vindictiveness exists among our "leaders".
on April 25,2013 | 06:15PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
"Rep. Cynthia Thielen, the only committee member to vote against the proposal, said she supports simply making the current law permanent rather than changing it."

Thank you Representative Thielen!!

Carroll Cox and Ian Lind deserve the same protections the paper does. More so, because they actually investigate and follow stories instead reprinting official government press release and calling it news.

on April 25,2013 | 06:19PM
Anonymous wrote:
Completely agree. This is an absolute corruption of the 1st Amendment to apply special privileges to approved forms of media. Either, it applies to all or don't apply is all. This is just a horrible, horrible corruption of power.
on April 25,2013 | 06:40PM
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