In the surest sign of an embattled government-media relationship, an invitation to meet U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder to discuss “ground rules” was declined by media houses here including The New York Times , the Associated Press and the Huffington Post.

Following the announcement of the meeting this week with the Washington bureau chiefs of media outlets to discuss the Justice Department’s guidelines for dealing with journalists in leak investigations, officials suggested the off-the-record condition.

Coming as it does after stinging media criticism of the DoJ’s seizure of AP’s phone records and accusations that a Fox News reporter was part of a criminal conspiracy for his reporting, the news agencies declined the invitation.

AP spokesperson Erin Madigan White told The Huffington Post: “If it is on the record, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll will attend. If it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter.”

Similarly, New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson was quoted as saying: “We will not be attending the session at DoJ. It isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the Attorney-General. Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department’s handling of leak investigations at this time.”

However, Ms. Abramson also noted that there would likely be a future session with DoJ officials on the substance of how the law should be applied in leak cases.