Commentary: Senate needs to pass shield law

After years of debate and consideration, a federal shield law for journalists is once again up for a vote this week in a Senate committee, where it's been bottled up far too long.

A version of this bill won House approval in 2007 only to die in the Senate. It was approved again in the House last March. Now it's time for the Senate to act.

Freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution, but the absence of a law that protects the confidentiality of news media sources undermines the First Amendment. Without it, reporters can be prosecuted if they refuse to reveal where they obtained sensitive information. That, in turn, will make sources reluctant to come forward.

Despite President Obama's campaign pledge to support a shield law, Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department has stymied progress by taking a hard-line position on criminal leak investigations, including those involving national security matters.

The department objects to a proposed "balancing test" that would allow a judge to determine whether making a reporter disclose a source is more important than the public interest in having the information.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.