In the recent embarrassing uproar over Attorney General Eric Holder’s labeling a James Rosen, reporter for Fox News, a co-conspirator in a federal leak probe and issued a secret search warrant for his e-mails, Holder said that Department of Justice rules would be reviewed and revised as needed. The “New Rules” on media policy (pdf) were issued last week. The rules, as Marcy Wheeler at empty wheel points out, will only apply to explicitly to “members of the news media,” not journalists per se.
The definition might permit the exclusion of bloggers and book writers, not to mention publishers like WikiLeaks. [..]
That approach would have several advantages over protecting “the news media.” First, by protecting the act of journalism, you include those independent reporters who are unquestioningly engaging in journalism (overcoming the blogger question I laid out, but also those working independently on book projects, and potentially – though this would be a contentious though much needed debate – publishers like WikiLeaks), but also exclude those news personalities who are engaging in entertainment, corporate propaganda, or government disinformation.
The rules also are a move to set up an “official press.” More from Marcy who goes into detail:
The First Amendment was written, in part, to eliminate the kind of official press that parrots only the King’s sanctioned views. But with its revised “News Media Policies,” DOJ gets us closer to having just that, an official press.
That’s because all the changes laid out in the new policy (some of which are good, some of which are obviously flawed) apply only to “members of the news media.” They repeat over and over and over and over, “news media.” I’m not sure they once utter the word “journalist” or “reporter.” And according to DOJ’s Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide, a whole slew of journalists are not included in their definition of “news media.” [..]
The limitation of all these changes to the “news media” is most obvious when it treats the Privacy Protection Act – which should have prevented DOJ from treating James Rosen as a suspect. [..]
The PPA, however, applies to all persons “reasonably believed to have a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper, book, broadcast, or other similar form of public communication.” [..]
I’m clearly covered by the PPA. But the FBI could easily decide to exclude me from this “news media” protection so as to be able to snoop into my work product.
Congratulations to the “members of the news media” who have been deemed the President’s official press. I hope you use your privileges wisely.
Update: I’ve learned that the issue of whom this applied to did come up in background meetings at DOJ; in fact, DOJ raised the issue. The problem is, there is no credentialing system that could define who gets this protection and DOJ didn’t want to lay it out (and most of the people invited have never been anything but a member of the news media, making it hard for them to understand how to differentiate a journalist).
Ultimately, I think DOJ is so anxious for Congress to pass a shield law (which they say elsewhere in their report) because it’ll mean Congress will do the dirty work of defining who is and who is not a journalist.
The full article is a wealth of information and worth the time to read it, along with all the links.
The Obama administration and Congress are coming very close to creating a state sanctioned press, a true “Pravda on the Potomac,” as The Washington Post is unofficially called. This is Cass Sunstein’s dream come true.