The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Karl Rhoads, unanimously passed a measure Tuesday that would protect journalists from having to disclose their confidential sources under certain circumstances.

There was a shield law in Hawaii until 2013 when it was allowed to sunset because lawmakers couldn’t agree on the language amid pressure from the Attorney General’s office.

The Judiciary Committee made several amendments to House Bill 295, including language to make it clear that the privilege is held by the journalist and not the source. The goal there, Rhoads said, is addressing concerns that if a journalist feels a source isn’t being truthful, there won’t be any legal or moral obligation to keep the source secret.

Reporter's notebook

Hawaii lawmakers are considering bringing back a shield law to protect journalists from revealing their sources and notes.


Rhoads said language would be also added to ensure that if a journalist revealed a source to someone also protected by a confidential relationship, like an attorney or priest, that it would still be privileged. But if a journalist told someone at a bar, for instance, who a source was then the privilege was waived forever.

The bill heads to a vote before the full House next. Read Civil Beat’s past coverage here.

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