Moved in part by the subpoena of a conservative Web site reporter in a lawsuit over the fatal breach of Kaloko dam, several state lawmakers are thinking about creating a shield law to protect journalists from disclosing information in court, reports the Honolulu Advertiser. Thirty-three states have shield laws that give reporters varying degrees of protection from revealing the identities of sources or turning over notes or other material. The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that reporters have no federal First Amendment or state right not to disclose confidential sources to state courts.
But some legal experts believe reporters have a qualified privilege unless the disclosure is so important it outweighs protecting confidentiality in newsgathering. Several lawmakers are researching a shield law for next session. They will have to determine whether reporters should have broad protection from disclosing newsgathering information or whether it should be more narrow, such as only protecting confidential sources. They will also have to resolve the troublesome question of how to define journalists.