Transcript: Sen. Dick Durbin’s remarks on the Free Flow of Information Act – Sept. 12, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on the Free Flow of Information Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was held on Sept. 12, 2013:

…There was a time when I would have argued vehemently for the fairness doctrine and equal time when it came to television media. I thought it was the right thing to do. Americans should hear both sides of the story.

And then I took a sharp look at what happened with the media – television in particular. It’s no longer 4 or 5 networks. It’s hundreds of stations.

And clearly the early thoughts I had had to be put in the context of reality of technology and communication in the modern time.

And I think it was a good partnership with Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein (D-Calif.) from the beginning to try to take this whole notion of protecting media sources and put it in the context of our time.

It is interesting my critics – our critics – in this effort – some said initially that it was denial of free speech. Well, clearly that had nothing to do with it. Freedom of speech is delineated in the First Amendment. Freedom of speech, freedom of press – two different things, two important things, obviously related. And we never questioned the freedom of speech.

The question was the privilege that would be afforded to a member of the press and the next question is obviously, well what is the press? What is journalism? And we spent 4 years debating this right at this table and we’ve come to an agreement.

It’s not perfect by any means, but I think it’s an honest approach to this.

Things I’ve learned is that some 45 states have done this, have gone through this exercise, defining journalism in terms of a state protection when it comes to privilege. So we’re not doing something unique by having Congress making this definition at the federal level.

Secondly, I’ve learned that within the so-called journalism profession, there are serious differences of opinion. I’ve had press conference where people have started to ask questions and the other reporters have turned on him and said, “He’s not a member of the press.” “Yes, I am. I write comments after the articles in the Washington Times. So I’m a member of the press as well.” And they excluded him. So it’s clear that even within the profession there’s a difference.

I think we’ve drawn some fair lines here. I think that Sen. [Chuck] Schumer, Sen. [Lindsey] Graham, Sen. [Amy] Klobuchar and others have been very open to resolving this issue and I’ll be happy to support it with the adoption of this amendment.

I’ll say to my colleague from Texas [Sen. Ted Cruz], you can’t have it both ways. You can’t argue that you’re concerned about national security and safety and conclude by saying everyone gets the privilege. You’ve argued both sides of this issue when you say that.

What we’re trying to do is strike a balance here. There are three basic tests. You’ve identified only one of those tests and that is if you happen to be employed by a certain traditional media.

But there’s another test in terms of how much experience you put into the business, what you are doing with your life.

And a third test that Sen. [Chuck] Schumer returns to over and over that says the court can make a decision, that there is an exception here that should be treated and given this privilege.

Keep in mind the beginning premise here. There are two freedoms involved. Freedom of speech, no questions asked. Everyone has that. Freedom of press and the privilege that comes with it – who is a member of the press. And we’ve come up with three standards that I think are reasonable in light of evolving technology.

If you open the door to anyone who blogs, you have opened the door in terms of national security and safety far wider than I think it should be.

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