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Journalists ready to rumble over Associated Press challenge

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The drama continues. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus ramped up the hostilities between The Associated Press and the Justice Department by calling for the resignation of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. after news surfaced that the department had seized phone records from the wire service.

“The First Amendment doesn’t request the federal government to respect it. It demands it,” declared Mr. Priebus, adding that if President Obama does not ask for the aforementioned resignation, “the message will be unmistakable: The president of the United States believes his administration is above the Constitution and does not respect the role of a free press.”

But journalists themselves are ready to rumble. The American Society of News Editors deems the Justice Department’s seizure of wire service phone records both “outrageous” and “appalling,” among other things.

“This is a disturbing affront to a free press. It’s also troubling because it is so consistent with an administration that has aggressively investigated disclosures of classified information to reporters,” says the group’s director Arnie Robbins, who says he would be “delighted” if Mr. Holder would attend the group’s convention next month at a hotel just four blocks from the White House.

And from Vincent Duffy, chairman of the Radio Television Digital News Association: “This unprecedented invasion of privacy involving confidential information is a blatant violation of basic rights afforded by the First Amendment. This action is unwarranted and absolutely strikes at the heart of the press freedoms we cherish in the United States.”

Then there’s Sonny Albarado, president of the Society of Professional Journalists: “The Justice Department’s secret acquisition of two months of the business and personal phone records of AP’s reporters and other employees is shameful and outrageous.”

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