By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday he directed Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a review of Department of Justice guidelines for investigations that involve journalists and report back by early July.
Obama has come under criticism for his administration's pursuit of journalists who have reported leaked material.
In recent weeks, it emerged that the Justice Department seized Associated Press phone records as part of a probe into leaks about a 2012 Yemen-based plot to bomb a U.S. airliner and that Fox News correspondent James Rosen had been named a "co-conspirator" in a federal leaks probe involving his reporting on North Korea.
"I'm troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable," Obama said on Thursday during a foreign policy speech about his administration's counterterrorism objectives.
"Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law," Obama said.
Obama said Holder would convene a group of media groups and collect their concerns as part of his review.
Obama said last week he made "no apologies" for his concern about leaks to the media that could compromise U.S. national security or put American military and intelligence officers at risk.
The Department of Justice said in a statement that Holder would report back to the president by July 12 and would meet with experts inside and outside government in addition to media representatives.
"This review is consistent with Attorney General Holder's long-standing belief that freedom of the press is essential to our democracy," the department said in a statement.
"At the same time, the Attorney General believes that leaks of classified information damage our national security and must be investigated using appropriate law enforcement tools."
(Editing by Peter Cooney)