Attorney general pledges he won’t jail reporters for ‘doing their job’

The New York Times | USA Today | Politico

In a meeting with journalists to discuss Justice Department media guidelines Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told participants, “As long as I’m attorney general, no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail. As long as I’m attorney general, someone who is doing their job is not going to get prosecuted.”

The attorney general “was not discussing any particular case,” Charlie Savage reports a Justice Department official said, but Savage’s New York Times colleague James Risen is fighting an order to testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him. In March, Risen said the Obama administration is “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.”

The Justice Department said Holder’s remarks restated a “longtime assertion that, as long as he is in office, no journalist will be prosecuted or go to prison for performing ordinary news-gathering activities,” Kevin Johnson reports in USA Today.

The New York Times did not attend the meeting, Savage reports. Hadas Gold reports some names:

Among the members of the press who attended were Bruce Brown, Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; Kurt Wimmer, General Counsel, Newspaper Association of America; Karen Kaiser, General Counsel, Associated Press; Steve Coll, Columbia School of Journalism; Jane Mayer, New Yorker; Bill Keller, The Marshall Project; Susan Page, USA Today; Gerry Seib, Wall Street Journal; Robin Sproul, ABC News; Ken Strickland, NBC News; and Leonard Downie, The Washington Post.

Media reps at the meeting “urged a reconsideration of some aspects of the regulatory language” Justice proposed, Gold reports in Politico.

Specifically, journalists took issue with the clause stating that journalists would be protected from subpoenaes or searches for actions taken in the course of “ordinary newsgathering.” Their concern was that by adding “ordinary” to the regulation, it would give prosecutors latitude to define some kinds of newsgathering as not ordinary and therefore go after reporters.

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