New Shield Law to Protect Sources in Tribal Court Cases

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A new shield law for tribal court cases was created after a subpoena to the Cherokee Phoenix. (Credit: Cherokee Phoenix, screenshot)

Journalists “in tribal court cases” — even if they’re not with a tribal news outlet — now have a shield law to protect their sources in most cases, Tulsa World reported.

Exceptions to the new shield law include “defamation, libel or slander cases” and any cases where independent confirmation of “the same information” can’t be found, according to Tulsa World.  As Tulsa World explained:

“The issue was raised after staff members of the Cherokee Phoenix, the tribal newspaper, were subpoenaed and learned that the state’s shield law did not apply in tribal court.”

The newspaper’s executive editor, Bryan Pollard, emphasized the importance of shield laws to the Tulsa World, noting that without that protection, “we can’t develop trust with sources.”

In a February article, the Cherokee Phoenix noted that  Pollard, said the proposed shield would help journalists report “in an accurate and unbiased way” as well as independently.

According to the Tahlequan Daily Press,  the shield law is named “Free Press Protection and Journalism Shield Act of 2012” and it was co-sponsored by Chuck Hoskin Jr., Jodie Fishinghawk, and Frankie Hargis.

Hoskin, also the “deputy speaker” for the Council of the Cherokee Nation, told iMediaEthics by e-mail that the law “is effective today” and that “the legislation was approved by the Council of the Cherokee Nation as drafted.”

Further, Hoskin added:  “The Act is essential for a free press, which of course is essential to a free society.  Journalists working in Cherokee Nation’s jurisdiction can now do their work without fear of being hauled into court to disclose their confidential sources in all but some limited circumstances.”

We asked Frankie Hargie, another sponsor of the act, what prompted her involvement in the shield law. She explained: “My involvement was spurred by the fact that Cherokee democracy thrives when journalists are free to cover the issues and keep the people informed.  This legislation is one more way that we can ensure freedom of the press, a constitutional right cherished by the Cherokee people.”

We have written to the Cherokee Phoenix for more information about the case that prompted a subpoena. We have also written to the other bill sponsor.

UPDATE: 4/21/2012: 1:48 AM EST: We heard back from Jodie Fishinghawk, the third co-sponsor of the bill, who referred us to Chuck Hoskin, Jr. for more information about the bill.  Above in the story, see Hoskin’s comments.

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New Shield Law to Protect Sources in Tribal Court Cases

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