Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a press conference that the Department of Justice was “reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas.” He went on to say that the freedom of the press is not unlimited and has “this message for the intelligence community: The Department of Justice (DOJ) is open for business.”
The News Media Alliance is deeply troubled by these statements.
The News Media Alliance strongly condemns these statements, as they are an attempt to chill communications between the press and government officials.
The free flow of information to reporters is crucial in order to bring matters of great public importance to light. Threatening the use of subpoenas that could compel reporters to testify, and, in particular, to reveal the identity of a confidential source, will restrict the flow of information to reporters and ultimately to the public on matters of public interest, such as waste, fraud and abuse within the government and in the private sector.
“Now more than ever, we need to support journalists and the role the press plays in our society,” stated News Media Alliance President and CEO David Chavern. “The freedom of the press is a First Amendment principle and a cornerstone of our democracy. In order for our government to function properly, there needs to be accountability. The press provides a vital role in helping the public to hold the government accountable. The Attorney General’s statements are an attempt to stifle communications between government officials and journalists which will ultimately keep the public in the dark.”
A free press is our nation’s strongest defense against corruption and mismanagement. The greatest investigative stories of our time rely on the ability to protect sources and freely report on the federal government without fear of retribution. Reporters should be the last resort in a leak investigation, not the first. The DOJ’s guidelines for determining when the government can subpoena the media are well-balanced and constructed, and should not be changed.
Members of the News Media Alliance staff have contributed to this post.