The question always comes down to this — were it not for a free press, how would you know with any degree of certainty what is happening to your country, your state, city or schools?

How would you know how much of your money is saved or wasted by government, how safe and productive our public school classrooms are, and how good a job are they doing in your name?

The press, including newspapers, broadcast and cable outlets, the blogosphere and now social media, all has a role in providing the information needed for citizens to do their job of guiding the community direction — whether the community is Marion or the whole nation.

But the First Amendment has its detractors these days and press has never been, sometimes for good reason, the most popular of institutions. But the press is necessary if we are going to keep anything like the level of liberty that has allowed us to prosper as a free nation.

Recent actions in Washington D.C., including the intimidation — by use of criminal investigation — by the Obama Justice Department, have made clear that the attacks on press freedom are real and can choke off reporting of news that is not preapproved pabulum for the White House or any agency.

Rightly, we impeach officials for this sort of thing — including presidents.

Let’s try to keep them out of such trouble. Now it’s time to take action and make sure that a free press stays that way. The Chronicle-Tribune and the Hoosier State Press Association are calling once again for passage of the Free Flow of Information Act, otherwise known as the federal reporter’s shield law.

This should not be a partisan issue for Indiana’s delegation to Capitol Hill. Both Republican Gov. Mike Pence, the original author of the legislation, and, ironically, Democratic President Barack Obama have called for its passage.

We as a newspaper are taking action and we also urge our readers to contact U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, and U.S. Senators Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly by calling the Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) and asking they co-sponsor the Free Flow of Information Act, H.R. 1962 for representatives or S. 987 for senators.

A shield law would require judicial review before federal agencies could snoop on reporters’ sources, including members of Congress.

It’s not an absolute privilege for reporters and it is designed to allow legitimate criminal investigations, including investigations related to terrorism.The recent spying on Associated Press reporters demonstrates the need for a check on executive agencies, according to the Society of Professional Journalists.

Indiana Congress member Marlin Stutzman, R-Dist. 3, already is a co-sponsor and said, “Our great experiment in self-government hinges on freedom of speech and a free and independent press. The (Obama) Administration’s recent actions have reminded Americans of our ceaseless duty to safeguard this precious liberty, which is why today I am proud to co-sponsor media shield legislation to make sure that journalists are protected from being forced to reveal their confidential news sources in federal proceedings. Most importantly, this legislation will help ensure that the American people’s right to know is free from government incursion. Congress should pass and President Obama should sign the Free Flow of Information Act without delay.”

We agree.

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