WASHINGTON – A Republican lawmaker from Colorado is pushing to strengthen his state’s media shield law to better protect journalists, citing FoxNews.com reporter Jana Winter’s recent legal battle to keep her sources secret.
State Sen. Bernie Herpin said he was inspired by Winter’s case. He wants to change Colorado's law so it more closely matches New York’s version – considered to be the country's strongest in terms of protecting journalists.
“I actually was watching Fox News and I saw the story about (Winter) and what was going on with her and how Colorado was trying to force her to reveal her sources,” Herpin told FoxNews.com. “Colorado’s shield law is fairly weak and that needed to change.”
Herpin, who introduced his bill Wednesday, said getting the measure passed is his top priority this legislative session.
“If you are going to be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment like I am, you have to be a strong supporter of the First Amendment -- especially when it comes to the press,” Herpin said. “They act as a watchdog for the people. And if confidential sources are worried about being named, they aren’t going to come forward.”
To date, 49 states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of a shield law. However, there is a great disparity among the level of protection offered to journalists in the states.
In order to get a subpoena in New York against a journalist, the person seeking the subpoena must prove that the information they want is “critical or necessary” to a claim. In Colorado, a person pursuing a subpoena needs only to show the information is “directly relevant” to a case.
Winter, a writer based out of New York, had faced the possibility of jail time if she did not reveal the names of the sources who told her about a notebook “full of details” that James Holmes had mailed to a psychiatrist before a July 2012 rampage.
Holmes was accused of gunning down 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Fifty-five others were injured in the attack.
In December, a New York court refused to compel Winter to return to Colorado to testify.