Working toward a Missouri shield law

Missouri remains among the minority of states without a shield law for journalists. Currently, 39 states plus the District of Columbia have shield laws.



This year, for the first time since 2008, a bill to create a shield law — HB858 — has been filed in Missouri. Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, a Republican attorney from Carrollton, filed the bill on Feb. 5, although it has yet to be referred to a House committee for a hearing.

Without a shield law, journalists in Missouri have to be especially careful when using anonymous sources out of fear they could be jailed for refusing to name their sources.

While reporters generally require all sources used in stories to be on the record, shield laws are important for the rare occasions when a whistle-blowing situation calls for reporters to protect sources’ identities, said Jean Maneke, a media law attorney based in Kansas City.

“Courts in other states have recognized this and … require that a litigant not force a reporter to disclose the source until that litigant has made every effort to secure the name of the source elsewhere and has demonstrated that without access to the name of the source, their litigation effort will fail,” Maneke said.

Passing a shield law in Missouri is something that needs to be done, McGaugh said.

Said the representative:

“I want news gatherers to be able do their jobs and not have a court or another entity use (the lack of a shield law) in a manner it should not be used. I think the legislation I introduced strikes a balance. It gives reporters a shield law but allows individuals who want certain information the ability to go to court and get a judge to decide whether or not they are entitled to the information.”

The text of HB858 can be found here:

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