Governments that try to force citizens to decide between a free press and national security create a "false choice" that weakens democracy, and journalists must fight increasing government overreach that has had a chilling effect on efforts to hold leaders accountable, the president and CEO of The Associated Press said Saturday.
Gary Pruitt told the 69th General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association that the U.S. Justice Department's secret seizure of records of thousands of telephone calls to and from AP reporters in 2012 is one of the most blatant violations of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution the 167-year-old news cooperative has ever encountered.
The Justice Department action involving the AP resonated far beyond the U.S., including Latin America, where journalists for decades have fought to exercise press freedoms under authoritarian regimes, Pruitt said.
"The actions by the Department of Justice could not have been more tailor-made to comfort authoritarian regimes who want to suppress the news media. 'The United States does it too,' they can say," Pruitt said.