Herridge, Attkisson ask Congress to help stop government from making journalists disclose sources

The congressional hearing is set to address important protections for journalists against federal government intrusion.

Two of the country's top investigative reporters on Thursday urge Congress to pass to pass legislation to protect journalists from federal government efforts compelling them to disclose their sources. 

“Forcing reporters to disclose sources would have a crippling effect on investigative journalism,” Catherine Herridge, an award-winning journalist who has worked at Fox News and CBS News, told members of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government.

The hearing, titled "Fighting for a Free Press: Protecting Journalists and their Sources," was convened to address the federal government's infringement on the First Amendment freedom of the press guarantees and proposed laws to address the issue. 

Herridge, along with investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who also worked for CBS, and Mary Cavallaro of the SAG-AFTRA union, which represents broadcasters and journalists, are asking Congress to pass the PRESS Act.

The measure – formally known as the Protect Reporters from Exploitative State Spying Act – would prohibit the federal government from compelling a journalist or telecommunications firm from disclosing protected information, unless it is to prevent terrorism or imminent violence. 

Herridge was held in civil contempt by a U.S. District Court earlier this year after she refused to disclose confidential sources from a series of 2017 stories she wrote about a Chinese-American scientist who was investigated by the FBI. She is currently appealing the judge's decision.

“One of our children recently asked me if I would go to jail, if we would lose our house, and if we would lose our family savings to protect my reporting sources,” she said. “I wanted to answer that, in this country, where we say we value democracy and the role of a vibrant and free press, it was impossible. But I couldn’t offer that assurance.”

Herridge called on Congress to pass the measure to protect reporters from her situation. She reiterated that disclosing a confidential source would be against journalistic values. 

Attkisson and Cavallaro also urged Congress to pass the measure to enshrine federal protections for journalists.