U.S. daily harassed after publishing map of gun owners

New York, January 7, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns continued harassment and threats against staff of The Journal News after the New York state-based daily published an interactive map that identified local gun permit holders. CPJ calls on authorities to investigate the matter thoroughly and take all appropriate law enforcement action.

“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 Journal News, a White Plains-based daily that is part of the Journal News Media Group, which serves New York’s Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties, published an online map on December 22 that identified the names and addresses of all handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties. The map, which was published in the wake of a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, was accompanied by an article headlined, “The gun owner next door: What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood.”

Although gun permits are public record in New York state, a number of gun owners and others criticized the paper for what they perceived to be an invasion of privacy. On December 26, a blogger published the names and addresses of top editors and executives at The Journal News, and the article’s author, Dwight R. Worley, along with information about their hobbies and children. They, as well as other Journal News reporters and executives not involved in the publication of the article, began receiving threatening phone calls and emails over the past two weeks, the New York Times reported, citing several Journal News journalists.

The Journal News reported on Saturday that it had received envelopes containing white powder on January 2 and 4. Authorities said tests revealed the powder was non-toxic, according to the News and The New York Times.

The Journal News did not immediately respond to requests for further information regarding the threats. A human resources manager said she would forward CPJ’s request to Janet Hasson, president and publisher of the Journal News Media Group.

The Journal News assembled the map with data obtained via Freedom of Information requests. Similar applications have been filed with Putnam County authorities, who said they did not intend on complying, according to news reports.

Hasson told the Times she had hired armed guards from a local private security company to protect the daily’s offices.

  • For more data and analysis on the U.S., visit CPJ’s U.S. page here.