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News Media Alliance Blasts Sessions Leak Comments

The News Media Alliance didn’t like what it heard out of the Justice Department last week about potentially subpoenaing media outlets in the ongoing investigations of leaks.

At a press conference Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been under pressure from President Donald Trump to investigate a flood of leaks out of the Administration and to outlets the President has branded "the enemy," said DOJ was "reviewing policies affecting media subpoena."

That led to a flood of pushback from media outlets over the weekend and a walk back of the threat by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who told the New York Times that the department "was not pursuing reporters as part of its growing number of leak investigations."

But given the mixed messages that have become the standard currency in this White House, the alliance, whose board includes representatives of News Corp., Belo, Cox, the New York Times and Washington Post, was taking no chances.

"The News Media Alliance strongly condemns these statements, as they are an attempt to chill communications between the press and government officials," the group said in a statement. "The free flow of information to reporters is crucial in order to bring matters of great public importance to light. Threatening the use of subpoenas that could compel reporters to testify, and, in particular, to reveal the identity of a confidential source, will restrict the flow of information to reporters and ultimately to the public on matters of public interest, such as waste, fraud and abuse within the government and in the private sector."

The President has accused multiple news outlets of being in league with Democrats to delegitimize his election and presidency.

"The press provides a vital role in helping the public to hold the government accountable," said Alliance President David Chavern. "The Attorney General’s statements are an attempt to stifle communications between government officials and journalists, which will ultimately keep the public in the dark.”

(Photo via Gage Skidmore's Flickr. Image taken on June 13, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 16x9 aspect ratio.)

John Eggerton
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.