Holder Expands Protections For Journalists In Federal Investigations

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Attorney General Eric Holder has expanded protections for journalists, setting new standards that federal prosecutors must meet before seeking subpoenas or search warrants covering media professionals, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Prosecutors must ask the Justice Department's Policy and Statutory Enforcement Unit before issuing a subpoena to a member of the news media, using a subpoena or court order to obtain records concerning a member of the media, or questioning, arresting or charging a member of the media for actions arising out of “newsgathering activities.”

A significant change was to drop the word “ordinary” from the phrase “newsgathering activities.” “These revised guidelines strike an appropriate balance between law enforcement's need to protect the American people, and the news media's role in ensuring the free flow of information,” Holder said. Prosecutors must consult with higher-ups before they decide questions like whether someone is a member of the media and whether the actions were part of newsgathering activities. “We are pleased that the new guidelines protect 'newsgathering activities' without qualification whenever the government seeks information related to a journalist's work reporting and disseminating the news,” said Bruce Brown of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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