National Press Club

Press Club Talks With Attorney General Holder on Press Freedom Matters

Angela Greiling Keane | June 19, 2013

The National Press Club participated in the most recent small-group meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss our concerns about the Justice Department's recent subpoenas and search warrants issued against journalists. The seizures of journalists' phone records and e-mails, which are troubling to our members, have come in the midst of the Obama administration's recent wave of leak investigations.

Because the Press Club is a leading voice for the diverse community of professional journalists, we felt it was important to participate in the meetings the attorney general has convened with different groups of news media. Representing the Club, I expressed our concern about the chilling effect on newsgathering and whistleblowing that DOJ's subpoena for Associated Press phone records and search warrant for a Fox News reporter's e-mails have had. We are also among many media outlets and organizations concerned about the lack of notification given by the agency before secretly obtaining these journalists' records.

The Justice Department has pledged to update its policies for how it handles seeking information from members of the media. Those policies were last updated in 1982, when communication between reporters and their sources was obviously very different than it is today. Part of the discussion focused on shedding sunlight rather than working in secrecy when the government has national security concerns about information a source may leak to the news media.

Mr. Holder has a July 12 deadline from President Obama to release his recommendations for change. The Press Club's pro bono media counsel Chuck Tobin, who accompanied me to the meeting, is working with a committee of First Amendment lawyers on suggestions to make to the attorney general's Office that will strengthen press freedoms.

I'm hopeful that the attention to the concerns of the National Press Club and others will return us to a working environment where journalists can feel confident in their unfettered ability to gather and report news.