Mike Pence Statement on Free Flow of Information Act of 2007
WASHINGTON, DC - The following is a prepared statement that Congressman Pence delivered today at a press conference regarding the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007.
I am honored to be here today alongside my colleague Rick Boucher, who is such a tireless advocate for the First Amendment. Also, we are pleased to have Chairman Conyers and Reps. Coble, Walden and Yarmuth as original cosponsors. This is truly a bipartisan issue. It is a First Amendment issue, and I thank not only Congressman Boucher for his leadership but also the senior senator from my home state, Dick Lugar, as well as Senator Chris Dodd from Connecticut for their leadership in the Senate. They are truly champions for a free press.
As a conservative who believes in limited government, I know the only check on government power in real time is a free and independent press. The Free Flow of Information Act is not about protecting reporters; it is about protecting the public's right to know. Our Founders did not enshrine the freedom of the press in the Constitution because they got good press. And, I am certainly not advocating a free and independent press because I always get good press.
Enshrined in the First Amendment are these words: "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."
We all remember when not long ago a confidential source brought to light abuses at the highest levels of government in the long national nightmare of Watergate. History records that W. Mark Felt never would have come forward without the assurance made to him of confidentiality.
But, thirty years later the press cannot make that assurance to sources, and we face the real danger that there may never be another Deep Throat. The protections provided by the Free Flow of Information Act are necessary so that members of the media can bring forward information to the American public without fear of retribution or prosecution.
In recent years, we have famously seen reporters such as Judith Miller jailed and Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams threatened with jail sentences. They are a few names among many who have been subpoenaed for taking a stand for the First Amendment and refusing to reveal confidential sources.
Compelling reporters to testify, and in particular, compelling them to reveal the identity of their confidential sources, is a detriment to the public interest. Without the promise of confidentiality, many important conduits of information about our government will be shut down. The dissemination of information by the media to the public on matters ranging from the operation of our government to events in our local communities is invaluable to the operation of our democracy. Without the free flow of information from sources to reporters, the public is ill-equipped to make informed decisions.
Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have various statutes that protect reporters from being compelled to testify or disclose sources and information in court. Seventeen states have protections for reporters as a result of judicial decisions. The Free Flow of Information Act would set national standards similar to those that are in effect in the states.
The Free Flow of Information Act closely follows existing Department of Justice guidelines for issuing subpoenas to members of the news media. It simply makes the guidelines mandatory and provides protection against compelled disclosure of confidential sources. In doing so, this legislation strikes a balance between the public's need for information and the fair administration of justice.
Abraham Lincoln said, "Give the people the facts and the Republic will be saved." The Free Flow of Information Act is designed to ensure that the American people have the facts that they need to make choices as an informed electorate.
A free and independent press is the only agency in America that has complete freedom to hold government accountable. Integrity in government is not a Democratic or Republican issue, and corruption cannot be laid at the feet of one party. When scandal hits either party, any branch of government, or any institution in our society, it wounds our nation.
As a conservative, I believe that concentrations of power should be subject to great scrutiny. The longer I serve in Congress, the more firmly I believe in the wisdom of our Founders - especially as it pertains to the First Amendment and freedom of the press. It is imperative that we preserve the transparency and integrity of American government, and the only way to do that is by preserving a free and independent press.
Thomas Jefferson warned that, "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that limited without danger of losing it."
This Congress would be wise to take those words to heart. Now is the time to heed the advice of Mr. Jefferson. It is time to repair this tear in the First Amendment. It is time to pass a federal media shield law, and I am pleased to stand with my colleagues today to introduce the Free Flow of Information Act."
Source: Congressman Mike Pence Press Release