US & Canada

News executives: Holder-US media meeting 'constructive'

US Attorney General Eric Holder delivers remarks during the Justice Department Inspector General's annual awards ceremony Washington, DC 29 May 2013
Image caption Attorney General Eric Holder signed a subpoena for the records of Fox News reporters while a deputy did so for multiple AP offices

US Attorney General, Eric Holder, has made concessions on how he conducts criminal investigations of reporters, according to media executives.

They described a controversial off-the-record meeting with the attorney general as "constructive".

They said officials expressed a commitment to altering guidelines on issuing subpoenas in criminal investigations involving reporters.

Several major US media organisations boycotted the meeting.

The New York Times and Fox News were among them.

The justice department is facing questions over its seizure of phone records and emails from journalists.

The records were taken as part of investigations into leaking classified information to the media.

A review of how the justice department conducts investigations into reporters prompted this round of off-the-record meetings.

Not 'appropriate'

After the first of them, on Thursday, executives from news organisations which chose to be present said government officials agreed to significant changes.

Executive editor of the Washington Post, Martin Baron, said it was a "constructive meeting".

"They expressed their commitment to the president's statement that reporters would not be at legal risk for doing their jobs," he said.

Jerry Seib, Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, said there was also a renewed commitment, from the government, to supporting a federal shield law for journalists.

Such laws are in already in force in many US states to protect journalists from having to reveal confidential sources.

The Associated Press news agency had said it would not attend, but would "offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter".

New York Times Executive Editor, Jill Abramson, said it would not be "appropriate" for the newspaper to attend an off-the-record meeting.

"Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department's handling of leak investigations at this time," Ms Abramson said.

CNN, CBS, Huffington Post and Fox News were also absent.

Politico Editor-in-Chief, John Harris, explained the publication's attendance by saying he routinely has off-the-record conversations to discuss news coverage and newsgathering practices.

Mr Baron said he would prefer to meet on the record, but added: "Journalists routinely participate in off-the-record sessions, whether they prefer those conditions or not."

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