What you need to know about laws relating to Journalist interviewing politicianjournalists in the U.S.

1. Free Speech

2. Shield Laws

3. Defamation

Defamation is publishing or saying false things that harm a person’s reputation. It can be either spoken (called slander) or written (called libel). If you say or write true things about someone, that person cannot sued you for defamation. If you say or write false things about someone and that someone is a “public figure,” the public figure can only sue you for defamation if you knew information was false and intended to harm that person’s reputation.1NYT v Sullivan

But here is a recent example of a reporter and magazine that were found liable for defamation.

4. Privacy

5. Copyright

6. Obtaining information from the government

You have the right to obtain access to public records held by federal agencies, with some exceptions including national security related information.2Freedom of Information Act of 1966 Such a request is called a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, named after the law that makes it possible. You can find out more about FOIA requests here. Or more general information about open government on the federal level at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Most states also have laws giving any member of the public the right to attend government meetings. Find your state at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press state laws.

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