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Senate panel backs shield law extension

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The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced a bill extending the state’s journalism shield law an additional two years.

The law is set to expire on June 30, and House Bill 1376 would have repealed the sunset date, making the law permanent. But Circuit Judge Glenn Kim, chairman of the state Supreme Court’s Standing Committee on Rules of Evidence, asked the committee to delay the repeal and extend the law for two years to give his committee time to study and report on its implications.

Kim said the review would allow the committee to examine a law it was not given the chance to study before it was passed in 2008.

The shield law protects print media and bloggers from being forced to disclose unpublished notes, recordings and sources in court except when the information is “material to the investigation, prosecution, or defense of a felony or to a civil action for defamation.”

“Unfortunately, cases over the last decade have shown that there are many courts who don’t find a protection against revealing sources anywhere in the federal or state constitutions,” said media lawyer Jeffrey Portnoy. Without the law, the number of subpoenas issued to journalists could skyrocket, he said.

The Society of Professional Journalists and media companies including The Associated Press, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, West Hawaii Today, The Garden Island, Hawaii News Now, KITV, Honolulu Civil Beat, Hawaii Business and issued a joint statement in support of making the law permanent.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

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