CPJ Pushes Sessions to Support Journalist Protections

The Committee to Protect journalists is calling on Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to commit to support guidelines that make it harder for Justice to subpoena journalists' records.

At the hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), whose father was a journalist, said she was particularly sensitive to the journalist's role as a watchdog and asked him to commit to guidelines Attorney General Eric Holder issued in 2015, including issuing an annual report on any subpoenas and promising not to put journalists in jail for doing their jobs. But Sessions did not, saying he needed to study them.

"I do believe the Department of Justice does have sensitivity to this issue," she said, adding that there were "a few examples of where the press and the Department of Justice haven't agreed, but for the most part there is a broadly recognized and proper deference to the news media."

But there was a caveat. "You could have a situation in which the media is not really the unbiased media we see today and they could be a mechanism through which unlawful intelligence is obtained," said Klobuchar.

Klobuchar said she would follow up with him in written questions, but CPJ was not waiting around.

"We urge Senator Jeff Sessions, if confirmed as attorney general, to follow the revised guidelines set out by Attorney General Eric Holder," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas, in a statement. "The U.S. government should be expanding protections for journalists to gather the news and maintain confidential sources. They must not roll these protections back."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.