The Radio Television Digital News Association welcomes the latest revision to guidelines issued by the Department of Justice regarding the use of subpoenas for journalists, and encourages Congress to codify the rules in law.
Most notably, the new rules require approval from the Attorney General for any subpoena seeking records or testimony of journalists engaged in any newsgathering activities, not just what the department considers "ordinary" newsgathering activities, a phrase first used in guidelines issued in 2013.
"The revised guidelines are a big step in the right direction to protect the rights of journalists," said Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director. "The next step is for Congress to make key provisions of the guidelines the law of the land, so future Attorneys General cannot set aside the rules at will."
The DOJ's guidelines were updated in the spring of 2013 following the seizure of telephone and email records of journalists at the Associated Press and Fox News. The rules require prosecutors notify journalists in advance before issuing search warrants related to their reporting. It also requires the approval of the Attorney General to subpoena records directly from journalists and from outside sources, such as credit card records, telephone records or emails, and that exceptions to the rules are as narrow as possible.