Subpoenaed journalists light on shield law bill

VICTORIA, Texas (AP) - Victoria has been the stage for a sprawling political drama that began with a sex-crime investigation targeting a former Victoria County sheriff.

That led to sweeping indictments at City Hall and the police chief charged with lying to a grand jury.

That's plenty of fodder for any local news media. But District Attorney Steven Tyler has subpoenaed the editor and two reporters from The Victoria Advocate as witnesses.

The first-term prosecutor says testimony from Advocate reporters is material to the aggravated perjury case against Victoria police Chief Bruce Ure.

A central issue is whether Ure lied about who he talked to in an investigation of a former sheriff accused of sexually assaulting a teenager. But to the newpaper, the subpoenas smack of harassment.

Texas is 1 of just 14 states that affords journalists no legal protection from revealing sources or notes in court. Newspapers and media advocates say shield laws provide essential source protection and encourage whistleblowers to seek out reporters and expose corruption.

After failures in two previous sessions, the Texas House has overwhelmingly passed a shield law proposal. A Senate committee unanimously approved the measure last week and sent it to the full Senate for a vote.

The bill gives reporters qualified privilege. That means journalists couldn't be forced to give up information or testify in court unless a judge deems it reasonable and necessary.

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