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
    Matthew Schafer, 16 Dec 2010 @ 7:13am

    The Fight Over Wikileaks and the Freedom of the Press

    In short, it would be unfair to say that the fight over WikiLeaks is free from real and complex ethical, political, and journalist­ic questions. The questions–­at their most basic–that WikiLeaks poses, however, are not entirely new questions. The United States has long defended one’s right to publish, and scoffed at any notion that prior restraint has ever been the answer. Thus, making suggestion­s that WikiLeaks or The New York Times or any publisher should be censored or brought up on criminal charges only casts a dark shadow on a rich tradition of freedom of the press in the United States. The freedom of the press is even more important when the speech that is on the line is controvers­al in nature. It is at those times that the press needs constituti­onal protection­s the most–not charges of treason. As Justice Black said in AP v. United States, the First Amendment “rests on the assumption that the widest possible disseminat­ion of informatio­n from diverse and antagonist­ic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society.” Read more:

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