CPJ Issues Statement on Newspaper That Hired Armed Guards

By Carlton Purvis

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a non-profit committed to protecting journalists worldwide, has issued a statement calling for authorities to make sure Journal News reporters are protected.

"No journalist should be threatened in response to critical reporting," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior Americas program coordinator. "Authorities must ensure the safety of all Journal News staff members so they can continue to do their jobs without fear of reprisal."

The White Plains, New York-based daily began receiving threats by mail, phone, e-mail, and envelopes of white powder, after publishing a map of weapons permit holders in two counties it covers.

The map, which contained the names and addresses of more than 30,000 gun permit holders, was posted nine days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

All of the information in the database was public record, but gun supporters called publishing the information an invasion of privacy. One blogger went as far as publishing the names and address of journalists and executives at the Journal News in retaliation.

The paper has since hired armed guards to protect the building. The publisher, Janet Hasson, has paid for employees to stay in hotels if they don’t feel safe at home and has advised employees to change their telephone numbers.

CPJ has a journalist assistance program that includes family support and relocation assistance, but the organization has been unable to reach Hasson.




Matters of public record are not necessarily matters that should be publicized, especially in a collated form. This was not critical reporting as CPJ's Lauria tries to imply; it was irresponsible, malicious reporting, on a par with libel and perhaps even somewhat libelous per se.

By publishing the names and addresses of gun permit holders, collated and interactively mapped, the newspaper provided the criminal element with a detailed map of risks and a somewhat less comprehensive map of opportunities. The newspaper used its advanced abilities and vast resources to provide the criminal element with wonderful (from the criminals' perspective) research. Now criminal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is so much easier for the burglars, carjackers and armed robbers who might want to "service" said area.

One might call it fascism for criminals: the criminal-private partnership. So much for the OpSec that individuals in the community who bother with the gun permit process have played carefully; the means to hurt them is now presented in 3D, as it were, to the whole world.

I do agree that while one understands the hurt and anger felt by the people whose care and caution have been thus defeated, certainly threats and acts made against the personnel or property of the newspaper should be investigated and dealt with legally.

That is, however as far as my sympathy goes. I think the paper and the participating "journalists" should be facing civil penalties and perhaps even charges of criminal endangerment.

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