Information, contact: Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 105, lsiems@pen.org 

New York, NY, October 17, 2007PEN American Center reacted with elation to yesterday’s bipartisan 398-21 vote in the House of Representatives in favor of the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007, calling the House’s action an essential clarification of the right of journalists to protect confidential sources and an overwhelming affirmation of our country’s bedrock commitment to freedom of the press.

“With more and more reporters facing prosecution for protecting the identities of confidential sources, the United States has been teetering on the brink of joining PEN’s list of countries that routinely jail journalists,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “The Free Flow of Information Act is a giant step back from that dubious, dangerous position, and we are grateful to the entire membership of the House for its overwhelming support for this crucial legislation.”

The Free Flow of Information Act of 2007, H.R. 2102, would for the first time extend shield protections already in effect in thirty-three states and the District of Columbia to the federal level. Under the bill, reporters cannot be forced to testify in criminal cases or disclose source information in court except in cases of a specific threat to national security or when the information is necessary for the prosecution or defense of the case and cannot be obtained by any other avenue.

PEN has been strongly supporting shield protections for journalists at the federal level. Attention now shifts to the Senate, where the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a parallel, though slightly narrower, bill on October 4. We will be working with other free expression and press freedom organizations to expand the scope of the Senate version and bring it to a vote this year.

The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession and works to confront threats to freedom of expression in the United States from book-bannings in schools to post 9/11 threats to privacy, freedom of information, and basic human rights.