Politics & Government

Governor signs 'shield law' for journalists

TOPEKA — A bill that helps reporters protect their anonymous sources and unpublished notes was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Mark Parkinson.

The bill, often called a "shield law," would allow courts to require journalists to turn over their unpublished notes, videos and photographs only in certain circumstances.

Those circumstances are if a court decided the information:

* Could not be otherwise obtained

* Is relevant to the case

* And is of a compelling interest.

Groups such as the Kansas Press Association have been trying for several years to get a shield law passed. Thirty-seven states have enacted such laws protecting journalists.

The bill also defines who is a journalist and is covered by the proposed law. The definition includes not only traditional media such as newspapers, radio and television but online journalists regularly involved in reporting and disseminating information to the public.

"Our founding fathers were very meticulous in making certain that our country, including members of the press, received the necessary protections for freedom," Parkinson said in a written statement. "The shield law demonstrates that Kansas upholds that belief and respects a reporter's discretion in disclosing information and sources.

"While we understand the need for information under extraordinary circumstances, we must allow journalists to perform their jobs without fear of prosecution and continue bringing the news home to Kansans."

The law will go into effect when it is published in the Kansas Statute Book, which comes out July 1.

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