The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was quick to condemn the comments, attributed to President Donald Trump, that then FBI director James Comey should be looking to put reporters in prison for publishing classified information.
The Reporters Committee was citing the New York Times story that Comey had taken contemporaneous notes about a conversation where the President had suggested Comey back off investigating former national security advisor Gen. Michael Flynn over contacts with Russia but should be investigating leaks and potentially punishing journalists.
Trump has long branded the news media, including the New York Times, as liars and fake news outlets out to get him, going so far as to call them the "enemy of the American people." He has also been complaining about leaks out of the intelligence community and elsewhere in his Administration and threatened to toughen libel laws.
"The comments attributed to President Trump cross a dangerous line," said Reporters Committee executive director Bruce Brown in a statement. "But no president gets to jail journalists. Reporters are protected by judges and juries, by a congress that relies on them to stay informed, and by a Justice Department that for decades has honored the role of a free press by spurning prosecutions of journalists for publishing leaks of classified information."
"Comments such as these, emerging in the way they did, only remind us that every day public servants are reaching out to reporters to ensure the public is aware of the risks today to rule of law in this country. The president’s remarks should not intimidate the press but inspire it."
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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.