It’s hard enough to get someone to pick up the phone when you’re a regular reporter. But what will happen now that the Associated Press has announced the Department of Justice has subpoenaed phone records from its reporters?
A lot of people are very concerned this will create a space where people are even less likely to talk to the press, effectively making whistleblowers scared to tip off reporters to important information.
In a letter to Eric Holder signed by 50 news organizations, from NPR to the Bay Area News Group to Politico, Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press wrote:
The scope of this action calls into question the very integrity of Department of Justice policies toward the press and its ability to balance, on its own, its police powers against the First Amendment rights of the news media and the public’s interest in reporting on all manner of government conduct, including matters touching on national security which lie at the heart of this case.
The letter goes on to say that by subpoenaing two months of records from 20 phone lines, the DoJ has gone against all guidelines set forth about phone records. It goes on to call for a shield law:
The Department’s actions demonstrate that a strong federal shield law is needed to protect reporters and their newsgathering materials in a court of law where the adversarial process ensures a fair weighing of the issues. While Congress should provide that remedial legislation, there is still much that this Department can do to mitigate the damage it has caused.
Right here in Sonoma County, in Rohnert Park, someone started a petition calling for legislation against this practice.