Seizing a reporter’s records is troubling; we need to know more

News Media for Open Government, a coalition of leading news media organizations defending newsgathering and press freedoms, issued the following statement regarding the disclosure last week that a reporter’s records were seized in an investigation into unauthorized disclosures.

News Media for Open Government, a coalition of news media associations defending newsgathering and press freedoms, is deeply troubled by the government’s actions to seize records of a journalist.

We respect the government must at times keep information from the public in the interests of national security, including to protect sources and methods or to prevent disclosure of the existence of an investigation to the target of the investigation.

At the same time, the founders of our country established in the Constitution the freedom of the news media to inform the public about what the government is doing.

In deciding to initiate investigations and obtain the records of journalists, the government must in guidance and practice respect the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, including the role of the press.

The government should better explain why this investigation into the reporter’s source was necessary, what other steps were taken to obtain information necessary to the underlying investigation and whether or not the Department of Justice’s own guidelines regarding issuance of subpoenas to the media were followed. It is unclear whether that happened in this case. The public has a right to be informed to help ensure the government is upholding obligations under the Constitution.

Members of NMOG include: American Society of News Editors, The Associated Press, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, National Association of Broadcasters, National Newspaper Association, News Media Alliance, Online News Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Society of Professional Journalists.