World Association of News Publishers

Protest Campaign - USA, 20 May 2013

Protest Campaign - USA, 20 May 2013

Article ID:


Mr Eric Holder,
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
via email:
via fax: (202) 307-6777

20 May 2013


Dear Mr Holder,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at the seizure of the records of thousands of Associated Press phone calls.

According to reports, the Department of Justice (DOJ) notified the Associated Press in an email on 10 May that it had obtained the records of calls made from 20 of the news agency's phone lines during April and May 2012. The email did not specify the DOJ's reasons for seizing them nor the legal grounds on which they were seized.

The purpose of the seizure was, reportedly, to identify the news agency's sources for a report published on 7 May 2012 revealing details of a CIA operation to thwart an Al-Qaeda plot to place a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States. The phone lines targeted included those of several AP bureaux in the United States, its main number in the House of Representatives press gallery, and the personal numbers of some of its employees, including five reporters and an editor involved in producing the May 2012 report.

We agree wholeheartedly with AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt, when he wrote to you on May 13: "There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know. We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP's constitutional rights to gather and report the news."

This seizure has a profound impact on news reporting in the US by undermining the protection afforded to confidential sources. Furthermore, its implications have important international significance, as repressive regimes will use the US example to justify their own actions in exposing whistle-blowers and prosecuting journalists and those who uncover wrongdoing.

We respectfully call on you to return or destroy all the seized phone records. Further, we encourage the Department and the administration to support its endorsement of a shield law by vigorously encouraging Congress to establish clear and uniform rules for when confidential source information is protected and when it is not, to guarantee the protection of journalists' sources.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.


Yours sincerely,


Jacob Mathew
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Erik Bjerager
World Editors Forum


cc: James M. Cole, Deputy Attorney General


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2013-05-20 17:15

Contact information

In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...