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The White House says it's trying to help journalists, not hinder them

The White House has denied any prior knowledge about Association Press phone records being seized.

Obama briefing the press at The White House
Obama briefing the press at The White House
Image: Charles Dharapak/AP/Press Association Images

THE WHITE HOUSE threw its weight behind a bid to pass a law to strengthen journalists’ rights to protect their sources, amid controversy over the seizure of a news agency’s phone records.

Following allegations that federal investigators had gone too far in their move against the Associated Press, a spokesman said President Barack Obama had contacted lawmakers to ask that the bill be brought forward.

“The president has long supported media shield legislation in the Senate during the 2008 campaign and as president,” Carney said, adding that Obama had spoken to Senator Charles Schumer to press his support for the bill.

Protect the media

“We are glad to see that that legislation will be reintroduced, because he believes strongly that we need to provide the protections to the media that this legislation would do,” Carney told reporters.

This week’s revelation that investigators probing alleged leaks of secret or classified information had secretly obtained phone records for numbers used by Associated Press reporters triggered a political firestorm.

Several commentators and a coalition of media organisations accused Obama’s administration of trampling on press freedoms in its pursuit of government leaks and whistleblowers.

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But Carney insisted that the White House was not involved in the Justice Department investigation that acted against the AP, and protested that Obama supports laws that would protect the identity of press sources.

- © AFP, 2013

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