Home News The Herridge Case Highlights Urgency for Congressional Action on PRESS Act

The Herridge Case Highlights Urgency for Congressional Action on PRESS Act

A recent court filing by veteran journalist Catherine Herridge emphasizes the urgent need for legislative protection of press freedom. Herridge’s ongoing legal battle, where she’s appealing a contempt of court order for refusing to disclose her sources, has brought renewed attention to the PRESS Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at safeguarding journalists from subpoenas and unwarranted surveillance, except under strictly defined emergency circumstances.

Unpredictability in Journalist-Source Protection

Herridge, previously with CBS News and Fox News, is challenging a federal judge’s decision that compels her to reveal her sources from her reporting on an online university’s alleged connections to the Chinese military. The university’s president, Yanping Chen, initiated privacy claims against the FBI, suggesting leaks facilitated Herridge’s articles.

The core of the legal dispute revolves around the applicable legal standards for compelling a journalist to disclose sources. Herridge argues for a comprehensive assessment weighing public interest against private disclosure demands. Conversely, Chen pushes for a narrower approach focusing solely on the pertinence of Herridge’s sources to the lawsuit and whether alternative evidence sources have been exhausted.

This case underscores the variable landscape across the U.S. federal courts regarding journalist-source confidentiality. Jurisdictions vary widely, with some offering broad protections and others, like the D.C. Circuit, providing ambiguous safeguards that are open to subjective judicial interpretation.

The Need for the PRESS Act

The PRESS Act, currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, seeks to standardize protections by prohibiting government and litigants from forcing journalists to turn over source information or communications unless there’s a legitimate threat to national security or public safety. This legislation is backed by key figures from both parties, including Democrats Dick Durbin and Ron Wyden, and Republicans Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed his support for passing the bill soon.

The PRESS Act represents a crucial step towards eliminating the current unpredictability faced by journalists and their sources, ensuring that the press can operate without fear of undue government intrusion or legal repercussions for protecting confidentiality. This protection is vital not just for the sake of individual journalists like Herridge but for the broader integrity of the press and its critical role in a democratic society.


While Herridge should prevail in her appeal based on the paramount public interest in preserving source confidentiality, the necessity for such a defense highlights the broader vulnerabilities journalists face under current laws. The PRESS Act aims to fortify the foundational press freedoms essential for informing the public and holding power to account. It is imperative for Congress to act swiftly to pass this legislation, safeguarding the vital relationship between journalists and their sources against unwarranted intrusions.

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James D. Parker

James D. Parker is professional surveillance camera experts, understand more than 1,000 surveillance cameras, and have a wealth of surveillance camera related knowledge

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