Friday, June 22, 2012

Justice Department lawyer orders reporter not to quote her as she conducts a public meeting

A U.S. Department of Justice attorney conducting a public hearing in New Iberia, La., told local newspaper reporter Matthew Beaton that he could not quote her. When he and others questioned her authority to issue such an edict, the lawyer "grew belligerent and threatening," demanded that Beaton leave and said "You don’t want to get on the Department of Justice’s bad side," Beaton reported. Beaton initially agreed not to quote her, but she persisted in her demand, then let him stay.

Rachel Hranitzky's "demeanor softened" after the meeting and she told Beaton she "had gotten into big trouble" being quoted. "She said if she was quoted she could lose her job and that was the reason for her demands," he wrote. The hearing was about alleged discrimination in the city fire department. (Read more)

"When a public hearing is announced, the expectation is that whatever is discussed is to be talked about in a public forum," Daily Iberian Managing Editor Jeff Zeringue wrote in an editorial. "The threats of not wanting 'to get on the Department of Justice’s bad side' are unbelievable. Why would any government agency threaten its citizens at all, much less on an issue that is clearly no concern of national security?" (Read more)

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent the department a letter today saying RCFP was "gravely concerned" about the episode and any such policy or practice, and asking to what extent it has been adopted, when and who was responsible for it, along with relevant documents. (Read more)

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