AEJMC & ASJMC Condemn the U.S. Government’s Actions Against the Press, Defends Public’s Right to Information

May 23, 2013 | The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), which includes professors, deans and directors of journalism and mass communication programs, and the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication (ASJMC), which includes schools and colleges of journalism and mass communication, call for the U.S. government’s investigation of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) egregious intrusion into privacy related to the April and May 2012 secret seizures of Associated Press telephone records. Only a year later has the DOJ informed the nation’s news media about subpoenas that had been served to gather phone records of major AP Bureaus, as well as records from the private phones of AP journalists.

Secret investigations of journalists’ news sources produce a chilling effect on news-gathering activities, jeopardizing the critical role of the press in a democracy and ultimately harming the American public. These seizures of phone records also demonstrate the urgency of a Shield Law that would provide journalists with more security in keeping their interactions and interviews with sources confidential.

This investigation must result in a full and clear explanation of the process from which these secret subpoenas had resulted, together with appropriate sanctions for those found to have exceeded their legal authority or to have been derelict in their judicial responsibilities.

AEJMC and ASJMC further call for assurances by the DOJ that other secret subpoenas related to news-gathering activities have not been served and will not be served in the future.

In our universities and programs, we seek to instill in our students an appreciation for the necessity of a free press that understands the need to balance the privacy and national security issues with the publics open access to information. In this case, we find it hard to understand how that balance was met.

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