New York Civil Rights Law § 79-h. Special provisions relating to persons employed by, or connected with, news media




(a) Definitions.  As used in this section, the following definitions shall apply:

(1) “Newspaper” shall mean a paper that is printed and distributed ordinarily not less frequently than once a week, and has done so for at least one year, and that contains news, articles of opinion (as editorials), features, advertising, or other matter regarded as of current interest, has a paid circulation and has been entered at United States post-office as second-class matter.

(2) “Magazine” shall mean a publication containing news which is published and distributed periodically, and has done so for at least one year, has a paid circulation and has been entered at a United States post-office as second-class matter.

(3) “News agency” shall mean a commercial organization that collects and supplies news to subscribing newspapers, magazines, periodicals and news broadcasters.

(4) “Press association” shall mean an association of newspapers and/or magazines formed to gather and distribute news to its members.

(5) “Wire service” shall mean a news agency that sends out syndicated news copy by wire to subscribing newspapers, magazines, periodicals or news broadcasters.

(6) “Professional journalist” shall mean one who, for gain or livelihood, is engaged in gathering, preparing, collecting, writing, editing, filming, taping or photographing of news intended for a newspaper, magazine, news agency, press association or wire service or other professional medium or agency which has as one of its regular functions the processing and researching of news intended for dissemination to the public;  such person shall be someone performing said function either as a regular employee or as one otherwise professionally affiliated for gain or livelihood with such medium of communication.

(7) “Newscaster” shall mean a person who, for gain or livelihood, is engaged in analyzing, commenting on or broadcasting, news by radio or television transmission.

(8) “News” shall mean written, oral, pictorial, photographic, or electronically recorded information or communication concerning local, national or worldwide events or other matters of public concern or public interest or affecting the public welfare.

(b) Exemption of professional journalists and newscasters from contempt:  Absolute protection for confidential news.  Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or specific law to the contrary, no professional journalist or newscaster presently or having previously been employed or otherwise associated with any newspaper, magazine, news agency, press association, wire service, radio or television transmission station or network or other professional medium of communicating news or information to the public shall be adjudged in contempt by any court in connection with any civil or criminal proceeding, or by the legislature or other body having contempt powers, nor shall a grand jury seek to have a journalist or newscaster held in contempt by any court, legislature or other body having contempt powers for refusing or failing to disclose any news obtained or received in confidence or the identity of the source of any such news coming into such person's possession in the course of gathering or obtaining news for publication or to be published in a newspaper, magazine, or for broadcast by a radio or television transmission station or network or for public dissemination by any other professional medium or agency which has as one of its main functions the dissemination of news to the public, by which such person is professionally employed or otherwise associated in a news gathering capacity notwithstanding that the material or identity of a source of such material or related material gathered by a person described above performing a function described above is or is not highly relevant to a particular inquiry of government and notwithstanding that the information was not solicited by the journalist or newscaster prior to disclosure to such person.

(c) Exemption of professional journalists and newscasters from contempt:  Qualified protection for nonconfidential news.  Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or specific law to the contrary, no professional journalist or newscaster presently or having previously been employed or otherwise associated with any newspaper, magazine, news agency, press association, wire service, radio or television transmission station or network or other professional medium of communicating news to the public shall be adjudged in contempt by any court in connection with any civil or criminal proceeding, or by the legislature or other body having contempt powers, nor shall a grand jury seek to have a journalist or newscaster held in contempt by any court, legislature, or other body having contempt powers for refusing or failing to disclose any unpublished news obtained or prepared by a journalist or newscaster in the course of gathering or obtaining news as provided in subdivision (b) of this section, or the source of any such news, where such news was not obtained or received in confidence, unless the party seeking such news has made a clear and specific showing that the news:  (i) is highly material and relevant;  (ii) is critical or necessary to the maintenance of a party's claim, defense or proof of an issue material thereto;  and (iii) is not obtainable from any alternative source.  A court shall order disclosure only of such portion, or portions, of the news sought as to which the above-described showing has been made and shall support such order with clear and specific findings made after a hearing.  The provisions of this subdivision shall not affect the availability, under appropriate circumstances, of sanctions under section thirty-one hundred twenty-six of the civil practice law and rules.

(d) Any information obtained in violation of the provisions of this section shall be inadmissible in any action or proceeding or hearing before any agency.

(e) No fine or imprisonment may be imposed against a person for any refusal to disclose information privileged by the provisions of this section.

(f) The privilege contained within this section shall apply to supervisory or employer third person or organization having authority over the person described in this section.

(g) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, a person entitled to claim the exemption provided under subdivision (b) or (c) of this section waives such exemption if such person voluntarily discloses or consents to disclosure of the specific information sought to be disclosed to any person not otherwise entitled to claim the exemptions provided by this section.


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