Editorial: Journalists need rights

(Photo by Seth Haack) A stack of Branding Iron newspapers sits on a table. In this editorial, the editors are calling for protection for journalists in the state of Wyoming.

In the state of Wyoming there are no shield laws to protect us as journalists. Instead we have our morals and our own ethics. We are backed by the first amendment guaranteeing our freedom of speech and our freedom of press.

Shield laws, as according to the Society of Professional Journalists, are legal rules that protect journalists against the government requiring them to reveal confidential sources or other information.

Over the last couple of weeks, our staff has dealt with either the pressure from UWPD and the administration over the sources of our stories and our responsibility to obtain information, that should be done independently of writers.

UWPD Detective, Kelsey Anderson, personally contacted two of our writers, during which both of them felt pressured to answer perfectly or face consequences.

Anderson took one of our writers through a sit down meeting, where the writer felt as if an interrogation was taking place.

Anderson continued to pressure another staff writer, calling her personal cell several times demanding information regarding a source that Anderson should have obtained herself as a detective.

The Interim Dean of Students, Nycole Courtney, specifically said in an email sent to our advisor that our advisor MUST TELL us [a staff of journalists] that we are to give up our sources. This comment directly takes away our first amendment rights of freedom of speech through our ability to ensure confidentiality to our sources.

As journalists we have the right and will continue to have the right to hold the confidentiality of our sources. Wyoming attorney, Bruce Moats, informed us that once a verbal agreement regarding confidentially is discussed between the writer and the source, a contract is then made.

Creating a free and independent press on campus is something that is slipping out of the grasp of student journalists at the moment. This culture has created a chilling affect throughout the paper.

We have writers shunning the opportunity to write hard news stories for fear that repercussions will follow.

One international student in particular has brought concern over being deported as a result of this situation.

Student Media is the place where students are able to learn and grow as journalists, but instead some of us are afraid to take risks and follow leads. Where do we draw the line? We are calling for protection and support from our state and our legislators. Shield laws should be in place to protect the rights of journalists in this state.

There are only 12 states that currently do not have shield laws, according to the Reporters committee online. These include nearby states such as Kansas, Idaho and South Dakota.

It is our job to deliver facts and news to the University of Wyoming and community of Laramie.

Therefore, we will continue to do our jobs as student reporters. We will protect the rights of our sources and undergo the consequences that may be set forth upon us. We will not allow the intimidation from outside perspectives to change our ethics or obligations as reporters.

This is something that the state of Wyoming is lacking. We are requesting help in getting the protection we need in order to fully carry out our responsibilities as journalists.

We also call upon our readers to send us letters regarding your personal stance.

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