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U of M professor Jane Kirtley authors new "Media Law Handbook" for the U.S. State Department

30,000 copies to be distributed by U.S. embassies throughout the world to foreign governments and media

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What are the privileges and responsibilities of a free press? In “Media Law Handbook,” a new book commissioned by the U.S. State Department, Jane Kirtley, Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota, explores how free societies answer this question.

The initial press run of 30,000 copies is being distributed by U.S. embassies throughout the world to foreign governments and media.

“Some want the press to be an advocate, to champion causes and to take political positions,” Kirtley says. “Others believe the press should be objective and nonpartisan. Some believe that the press should respect and reflect social institutions and traditions. Others believe that the press should question and challenge them. This book suggests that despite these disagreements there are standards that describe the privileges and responsibilities of a free press in a free society.”

The 65-page book consists of six chapters: “Press Privileges and Responsibilities,” “A Good Environment for Fostering Journalists,” “A Framework for a Free Press,” “Self-Regulation in Lieu of Litigation,” “Responsibilities of Journalists” and “New Media, Citizen Journalists, and Bloggers.”

Kirtley explores the standards laid out in her book by drawing on real-life case studies such as the death of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, gunned down in a contract killing in Moscow in 2006; or former New York Times reporter Judith Miller’s refusal to cooperate in a criminal investigation seeking the identity of a government official and Miller’s subsequent imprisonment.

For more information about the book, visit www.america.gov/publications/books-content/media-law-handbook.html.

Kirtley has been the Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communication since August 1999. Prior to that, she was executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Arlington, Va., for 14 years. Before joining the Reporters Committee staff, Kirtley was an attorney for five years with the law firm of Nixon, Hargrave, Devans and Doyle in Rochester, N.Y., and Washington, D.C. Kirtley also worked as a reporter for the Evansville Press, Ind., and The Oak Ridger and Nashville Banner, Tenn.

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In “Media Law Handbook,” a new book commissioned by the U.S. State Department, Jane Kirtley explores the privileges and responsibilities of a free press.

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