U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Attorney General has repeatedly refused to rule out prosecuting or jailing journalists

Incident Details


Prosecuting WikiLeaks would be a grave threat to all journalists. 

October 18, 2017 - Update

Sessions dodges the question again

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on October 18, Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked Sessions whether he would rule out jailing journalists. The attorney general declined to do so.

"Will you commit to not putting reporters in jail for doing their jobs?" Klobuchar asked, according to a transcript published by The Washington Post.

"Well, I don't know that I can make a blanket commitment to that effect," Sessions said. "But I would say this: We have not taken any aggressive action against the media at this point. But we have matters that involve the most serious national security issues, that put our country at risk, and we will utilize the authorities that we have, legally and constitutionally, if we have to. Maybe we — we always try to find an alternative way, as you probably know, Sen. Klobuchar, to directly confronting a media person. But that's not a total, blanket protection."

April 21, 2017

After the Justice Department indicated it planned on pursuing WikiLeaks and its publisher with criminal charges, Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to rule out using any potential precedent set by such a dangerous prosecution to go after other US-based news organizations. 

When appearing on CNN on April 21, 2017, CNN anchor Kate Bolduan asked Sessions whether “folks should be concerned that this would also open up news organizations like CNN and the New York Times to prosecution.”

Sessions steadfastly refused to rule anything out, replying, “That’s speculative, and I’m not able to comment on that.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].