The First Amendment is under attack. Fight back with us. Visit fight.spj.org to find out how.

Sign In    Join SPJ    Donate

> Latest News, Blogs and Events (tap to expand)




Advertise with SPJ
— ADVERTISEMENT —
Advertise with SPJ
1



Stay in Touch
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
RSS


Publications
SPJ Blogs
Quill
SPJ Leads
The EIJ News
SPJ News
Open Doors

Home > SPJ News > Society Joins Fight Against Outdated Criminal Libel Law

SPJ News
Latest SPJ News | RSS


Society Joins Fight Against Outdated Criminal Libel Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
8/6/2001


Contacts: Al Cross, SPJ president-elect, 502/875-5136 x14 or across@spj.org; Bruce Brown, SPJ First Amendment legal counsel, 202/861-1660

INDIANAPOLIS - The Society of Professional Journalists and other media organizations are fighting to revoke Utah's antiquated criminal libel law.
A friend-of-the-court legal brief was filed Friday in the Utah Supreme Court by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and signed by the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists and its Utah Pro Chapter.

The legal fight stems from a case where Ian Michael Lake, a 16-year-old Milford High School student, was arrested in May 2000 under the criminal libel statute for creating an Internet Web site that posted parodic - but non-threatening - remarks about classmates and teachers. Lake created the site at home without school resources, and it did not contain threats of violence or references to weapons.

"This may be mischief, but it's not criminal," said SPJ President-Elect Al Cross, political writer and columnist for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. "And it should be protected by the First Amendment."

Early this year, Lake asked the Fifth District Juvenile Court Judge Joseph E. Jackson to dismiss the charges against him, but the judge refused. Lake appealed the case in June to Utah's high court, which agreed to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the state's criminal libel law.

The Utah criminal libel statute was created in 1865 and has remained substantially unchanged since its enactment. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in order to comply with the First Amendment, criminal libel laws must require the prosecution to prove that the defendant's statements about public officials or public figures were made with "actual malice" - which requires knowledge or reckless disregard of a statement's falsity.

Utah's law has never been updated with the Supreme Court's ruling.

"Criminal libel statutes have no place in a society that values free speech," said Bruce Brown, First Amendment legal counsel for SPJ. "Many of these statutes, like Utah's, are products of the 19th century, and it should be good riddance to all of them."


Publications
SPJ Blogs
Quill
SPJ Leads
The EIJ News
SPJ News
Open Doors

Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn RSS

Copyright © 1996-2018 Society of Professional Journalists. All Rights Reserved.

Legal | Policies

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center
3909 N. Meridian St., Suite 200
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317-927-8000

Contact SPJ Headquarters
Employment Opportunities
Advertise with SPJ