Grand jury report aims at Pa. Shield Law for journalists

     Attorney General Kathleen Kane, center, speaks during a news conference Wednesday in Philadelphia. Court documents released Wednesday show a grand jury has concluded there are reasonable grounds to charge Kane with perjury, false swearing, official oppression and obstruction after an investigation into leaks of secret grand jury material. Kane has proclaimed her innocence. (AP photo/Matt Rourke)

    Attorney General Kathleen Kane, center, speaks during a news conference Wednesday in Philadelphia. Court documents released Wednesday show a grand jury has concluded there are reasonable grounds to charge Kane with perjury, false swearing, official oppression and obstruction after an investigation into leaks of secret grand jury material. Kane has proclaimed her innocence. (AP photo/Matt Rourke)

    A grand jury report made available by a special prosecutor looking into allegations that Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane leaked information from a separate grand jury is calling for narrowing the state law protecting reporters.

    Pennsylvania’s Shield Law exempts reporters from having to disclose confidential sources, even in the course of a government investigation.

    Melissa Melewsky, counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, said she’s never heard of a past effort to scale back the statute.

    “Any time you chip away at the protections given to the press, you necessarily chip away at their constitutional role, and that does a disservice to the way our government functions and the proper function of democracy,” Melewsky said.

    Two Philadelphia Inquirer journalists invoked the Shield Law when they were subpoenaed by the grand jury earlier this month. The subpoenas came after they reported the panel had recommended charges against Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

    The grand jury report also states that information from a secret grand jury was “improperly and unlawfully disclosed.” Kane has denied knowingly sharing secret grand jury information. No charges have been filed.

    The report was recommended to be shared publicly, and delivered to the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association as well as the state House and Senate.

    “We were fortunate in this grand jury investigation to uncover the source of the grand jury ‘leak,’ which would not have been discovered without the truthful testimony of many law enforcement officials,” the report said.

    An exception, the report added, would “discourage reporters from developing sources by encouraging them to commit crimes in providing information and/or documentation subject to grand jury secrecy.”

    The recommendation is not “an attempt to limit the freedom of the press,” but a “reasonable means to maintain an acceptable balance of competing interests in favor of exposing those who violate the sanctity of the grand jury system for their own unlawful purposes.

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