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May 29 2013

Sen Durbin Suggests Constitution May Not Apply to Blogs

It is astounding to discover that one of our senior “lawmakers” does not understand the supreme law of the land – the Constitution.

Dick Durbin not so sure bloggers are protected under First Amendment

But here is the bottom line – the media shield law, which I am prepared to support, and I know Sen. Graham supports, still leaves an unanswered question, which I have raised many times: What is a journalist today in 2013?

We know it’s someone that works for Fox or AP, but does it include a blogger? Does it include someone who is tweeting? Are these people journalists and entitled to constitutional protection. We need to ask 21st century questions about a provision that was written over 200 years ago.

The First Amendment to the Constitution provides for free speech and freedom of the press and it applies to all, with no restrictions based on professional experience. While it prohibits making any law that infringes upon the freedom of the press, it does not specifically guarantee any right of confidentiality.

Media shield law does not extend a right of protection to journalists from revealing confidential information in court. It only raises the burden on the government to show a linkage between the best interests of the country and the information that they seek. It requires a balancing of preserving the Constitutional rights of an individual against pursuing national security interests.

Senator Durbins remarks indicate ignorance on two issues:

  1. The difference between the Constitutional protection of the First Amendment and so-called “Media Shield laws”.
  2. The idea that Constitutional First Amendment protections may be somehow limited to specific individuals or are outdated.

Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry and many contributors to both sides of the Federalist vs Anti-Federalist debate could be considered to be the bloggers of the American Revolution. They might have a few words for Senator Durbin. As a matter of fact, they did – they helped to author the First Amendment.