SJMC's Kirtley authors media law handbook for U.S. State Department

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 said "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. Those case studies include the death of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in a contract killing in 2006 in Moscow and 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

Kirtley has been the Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the university's School of Journalism and Mass Communication since August 1999. She also is director of the Silha Center for Media Ethics and Law. Before 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, both in Tennessee.

The book earned mentions in the Star Tribune and CBS' WCCO-TV via the Associated Press.

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