The Associated Press today welcomed revised guidelines on how the federal government could obtain records from the news media during leak investigations.
The guidelines, released by the Justice Department, revised steps announced last year in the wake of a public and media industry outcry over the secret seizure of AP phone records in May 2013.
“We are very pleased the Justice Department took our concerns seriously and implemented changes that will strengthen the protection of journalists for years to come,” said AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt.
AP General Counsel Karen Kaiser added: “These revisions advance the law significantly. In particular, the changes eliminate potential ambiguity of what constitutes newsgathering and help provide consistency in how the guidelines are interpreted across investigations and administrations.”
The AP, together with the Newspaper Association of America and the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, played a leading role in advocating for the changes on behalf of a coalition of news organizations.
In 2013, Pruitt had decried the DOJ’s seizure of the AP phone records during a leak investigation, calling the action “unconstitutional” in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and warning it would have a negative impact on journalism.
AP’s industry leadership in challenging the DOJ and calling for stronger protections for journalists was recognized last year with a First Amendment Award from the Radio Television Digital News Foundation (RTDNF) and the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s memo spelling out the new guidelines is found on the DOJ’s website.