DENVER (AP) - The president and CEO of The Associated Press says that governments that try to force citizens to decide between a free press and national security are creating a "false choice" that weakens democracy.
Gary Pruitt said Saturday that the U.S. Justice Department's secret seizure of records of telephone calls to and from AP reporters in 2012 was one of the most blatant violations of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that the news cooperative has ever encountered.
The Justice Department was trying to identify who leaked information for an AP story that revealed the foiling of a plot in Yemen to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner. It didn't tell AP about its records seizure until a year after the story was published.
Pruitt said that action had consequences far beyond the U.S. - including Latin America, where journalists long have fought to exercise press freedoms under authoritarian regimes.
Pruitt spoke Saturday to the Inter American Press Association in Denver. The association promotes press freedom throughout the Americas.
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