Data seizure from New York Times reporter sets dangerous precedent-CPJ
London, June 9, 2018 (AltAfrika)-Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, on Friday expressed concern about the seizure of phone and email records from New York Times reporter Ali Watkins by the United States Justice Department in the first known incident that federal prosecutors have gone after a journalist’s data under President Donald Trump’s administration.
According to press release by CPJ and New York Times, prosecutors obtained the records from telecommunications companies, including Google and Verizon– as part of a leak-related investigation.
CPJ’s North America Program Coordinator, Alexandra Ellerbeck from Kansas City said: “In order to perform their public accountability function, journalists must be able to protect their confidential sources. Efforts by government that undermine this ability therefore represent a fundamental threat to press freedom.
“This is why we believe that the government’s seizure of Ali Watkins’s data sets a dangerous precedent. We fear it could be an opening salvo in an ongoing battle over reporters’ ability to protect their sources”.
The past decade, CPJ said, has seen repeated attacks on journalists’ ability to protect their sources in the United States.
CPJ research indicated that, Obama administration set a record for leak-related prosecutions, and came under fire in 2013 for subpoening the records of Associated Press reporters.
Under the Trump administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a news conference last fall boasted about tripling the number of leak investigations and called for reviewing internal DOJ guidelines to potentially make it easier to obtain journalist records, according to media reports from the time