ROCKVILLE — All nine candidates running in the 8th congressional district said they would support and sponsor a national shield law to protect journalists and their sources if they are elected to Congress.
During a debate hosted by the Montgomery County Sentinel Saturday at the Executive Office Building, state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20) paraphrased a quote from former President Thomas Jefferson by saying, “If I had to choose between a government without a newspaper or a newspaper without a government, I would not hesitate a moment to choose the latter.’
“The newspapers, which are under tremendous heat and economic stress… are an essential public voice and watchdog in what takes place in corporate America,” said Raskin. “Not only would I support it and will I support it, I’ve been supporting it. And I would absolutely sponsor it because the last thing reporters need is more judges and cops and prosecutors breathing down their necks.”
State Del. Kumar Barve (D-17) added that he tells his friends and relatives in India that “we aren’t free because we’re rich.
“We’re rich because we’re free. And there’s no way to be free unless you protect the fourth estate,” he said.
For former news anchor Kathleen Matthews (D), the issue is personal.
“Of course I support and would love to lead the effort on a shield law. I became a journalist in 1975, right out of college, because I believe the public has a right to know what’s going on. It has the right to keep politicians honest and actually have information that make them make wise decisions when they go to the voting booth.”
Matthews cited an instance in which she was arrested on the Eastern Shore for trespassing while investigating a migrant farm “where Haitians were being abused and paid well below the minimum wage.”
“And so I would stand for that and the public deserves to know and, so, that’s why I’m in this race. I’m in this race because of that public service that started with me with journalism and that will continue, I hope, in Congress,” she said.
State Department official Joel Rubin (D) offered “a resounding yes” in favor of supporting and sponsoring a national shield law.
“I’m always amazed at the right wing essentially saying they support the Constitution but they’re willing to rip it up when it’s not convenient to them. And right now, we’re hearing Donald Trump threatening the New York Times and Washington Post. That is just an abomination,” said Rubin.
He added, “I do not want a society where we threaten our media. So I would support (it) vociferously. I think we ought to be very careful that freedom of the press. When it goes, democracy goes, and we see that across the globe.”
Total Wine and More co-founder David Trone (D) acknowledged The Sentinel Newspapers’ executive editor Brian Karem
“Brian, what happened in San Antonio with the shield law problem, you’re a hero for that and I’d certainly be happy and honored to sponsor the national shield law. I’ve worked with the ACLU for 20 years in this exact area. I’ve been attacked by a Republican attorney general. I’ve gone through the process. I survived and won and prospered because of people willing to fight against injustice.”
Former college professor David Anderson said bluntly he would support the shield law.
He then said, joking, “I’d probably let Sen. Raskin sponsor it. He knows more about this than I do.”
Former Capitol Hill aide Will Jawando (D) threw his support behind a national shield law.
Jawando attributed the nexus for “probably every social movement as I think of them in my head, has been because a brave, courageous reporter went out there and covered something and wrote about it and people got excited banned together.”
He included slavery, the women’s movement and civil rights in that list and agreed to sponsor or cosponsor such a bill. He also lauded The Sentinel for being independently owned “because that’s a big problem, when we lose independence.”
Biotech worker Dan Bolling (D) described himself as the son, nephew and brother of journalists.
“It’s actually a blessing,” he said. “I will sponsor it and I will support such a national shield law, yes.”
State Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18) closed out the round about the shield law by saying she would support and sponsor it, equating journalists protecting their sources with civil disobedience.
She recalled being arrested in front of the South African embassy protesting apartheid and four arrests in front of the White House while demanding Congress pass immigration reform laws.
“I think civil disobedience is a very important expression like freedom of the press. And I fully think that we need to express what we really think against injustice and we need to do more of that whenever we have the opportunities,” she said. “If we are quiet, if we are silent, we are condoning and that unfortunately is the way that most of the country is going.”