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News media source-disclosure protections set to expire

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 4:29 p.m. HST, Apr 30, 2013

A law that that offers journalists limited protection from having to disclose confidential sources in court is set to expire this year, after lawmakers failed to vote out a compromise version of the bill today.

House lawmakers had agreed early in the day to extend for two years the current media "shield law." The Senate passed a version of the bill that had been agreed to in conference committee last week.

The passage of the two different proposals essentially kills any extension of the current shield law. The law is scheduled to expire on June 30.

Hawaii's news media shield law has received national praise for its recognition and inclusion of emerging Internet-based media such as bloggers, online news sites and other nontraditional journalists.

Media advocates had criticized the version of the bill that had moved out of conference committee last week because it would have removed bloggers and nontraditional journalists and expanded the exceptions to the law beyond felony cases and civil lawsuits that involve defamation. Journalists would be expected to reveal their sources and other information in cases that involve potential felonies and serious crimes against people or animals and in all civil cases.

House and Senate negotiators had agreed to preserve the protection for unpublished information, such as notes, which can discourage so-called "fishing expeditions" by law enforcement into a journalist's work product.

Forty states and the District of Columbia have shield laws that offer varying degrees of protection to journalists, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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