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Feb. 26, 2014, 10 a.m.
LINK: www.dmlp.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   February 26, 2014

Our friend Jeff Hermes over at Harvard’s Digital Media Law Project has a post noting with concern a just-released set of U.S. Department of Justice guidelines around the propriety of investigating journalists:

Although the Guidelines extend certain protections to “members of the news media,” they (like the prior version) still contain no affirmative definition of that term.

Instead, the only way in which “members of the news media” are defined is through exclusions. A number of these exclusions (predictably) relate to persons acting as agents of a foreign power, plotting terrorist activity, et cetera.

[…]

This should give independent journalists significant pause. When government agencies attempt to define a journalist, they tend to adopt either an employment-based approach or a functional approach; the DOJ now seems to be eschewing a functional definition (or at least one as broad as in the Privacy Protection Act).

[…]

This leaves journalists unaffiliated with a news organization on potentially unstable ground with respect to the security of their communications against secret government inquiries.

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