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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Republican Sen. Curt Bramble plans to sponsor legislation allowing reporters to keep names of confidential sources secret.
Utah is one of just five states that fail to protect reporters in such cases, either through judicial case law or legislation, according to the Utah chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
"The media is regularly critical of public officials, and I am no exception," Bramble said. "But the ability of the media to get information is one of the things that sets us apart from other countries."
The Provo legislator said he will work with Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and a task force of media representatives to draft legislation before the 2006 legislative session begins in January.
Shurtleff, a Republican, first became interested in a shield law last spring when he rallied 33 attorneys general to submit a friend-of-the-court brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of former New York Times reporter Judith Miller.
Miller served 85 days in jail for initially refusing to testify in a grand jury investigation into the leaked identity of a covert CIA agent. Miller eventually testified, after being released from her confidentiality pledge by her source, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury.
Shurtleff also testified on the issue Nov. 2 before the Utah Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on the Rules of Evidence, which is still studying the matter.
The shield law would place journalists in the same category as spouses, attorneys, therapists, priests and police officers, all of whom have some sort of protection against testifying in court, said Jeff Hunt, attorney for the Society of Professional Journalists' Utah chapter.
Shurtleff expects such a law would help law enforcement solve more crimes because some sources would feel more comfortable talking to a reporter than to a police officer.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)