Columbia Journalism School Staff Warns Obama That Prosecuting Wikileaks Will 'Set A Dangerous Precedent'

from the heed-the-warning dept

While it's been unfortunate watching the traditional press attack Wikileaks for doing the job it refused to do itself, it's nice to see the staff of Columbia's journalism school (still considered one of the top journalism schools) come out and warn the Obama administration that prosecuting Wikileaks will set a dangerous precedent for freedom of the press, even for those who disagree with Wikileaks' methods:
While we hold varying opinions of Wikileaks' methods and decisions, we all believe that in publishing diplomatic cables Wikileaks is engaging in journalistic activity protected by the First Amendment. Any prosecution of Wikileaks' staff for receiving, possessing or publishing classified materials will set a dangerous precedent for reporters in any publication or medium, potentially chilling investigative journalism and other First Amendment-protected activity.

As a historical matter, government overreaction to publication of leaked material in the press has always been more damaging to American democracy than the leaks themselves.

The U.S. and the First Amendment continue to set a world standard for freedom of the press, encouraging journalists in many nations to take significant risks on behalf of transparency. Prosecution in the Wikileaks case would greatly damage American standing in free-press debates worldwide and would dishearten those journalists looking to this nation for inspiration.
Seems to more or less summarize the position we've taken over the last few weeks as well...
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Filed Under: free speech, journalism, obama, professors, wikileaks
Companies: wikileaks


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  1. identicon
    Richard Kulawiec, 15 Dec 2010 @ 6:48pm

    Re:

    Did anyone stop to think that maybe they want to put a scare into journalists and make them afraid to publish leaked documents?

    I'm sure you're right about this: the lesser individuals in government -- of which there are many -- are scared to death by Wikileaks et.al. Oh, they hide it with bluster and cries of "treason!" but they're frightened right out of their inferior little minds. They have finally been confronted with the future and they have no idea what to do about it. Which is why we see them flailing helplessly -- Exhibit A, the Air Force futilely trying to firewall out the truth, as if something so pervasive could be kept out indefinitely.

    So sure, it's more than plausible that some of this is intentionally calculated for just that purpose.

    It won't work.

    There are now more mirrors of Wikileaks than ever -- and the next move against them will provoke still more. Similar sites are being set up as fast as their operators can assemble them. Better methods for concealing leakers' identities are being developed. Lessons are being learned from this saga and applied -- subsequent efforts will evolve and be more progressively more resistant to interference. Yes, governments and corporations will try to stop them -- and in some cases, they'll succeed. But they'll never get them all. And each time they succeed all that they'll really accomplish is exerting a little evolutionary pressure on the rest -- which will respond by making themselves that much harder to stop.

    The avalanche has already begun. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.


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