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Society of Professional Journalists signs amicus brief in support of Web site

For Immediate Release:

Clint Brewer, President, (615) 301-9229
Joe Skeel, Editor, (317) 927-8000, ext. 214

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists has joined several media organizations in an amicus brief in support of Wikileaks, a Web site that invites people to post leaked material in order to discourage unethical behavior by corporations and governments.

The case, which many experts believe presents a major test to First Amendment rights in the Internet era, was brought to the federal court in San Francisco by Julius Baier Bank and Trust. The bank, which is based in the Cayman Islands, alleges that an ex-employee provided stolen documents to Wikileaks in violation of a confidentiality agreement and banking laws.
Last week, the judge in the case granted a permanent injunction ordering Dynadot, the Web site’s domain name registrar, to disable the Wikileaks.org domain name. The judge also ordered the site to take down the bank records. However, the judge’s order was ineffective in many ways: shutting down the domain name allowed the material to remain on the Internet accessible to all who have the IP address where the material is located. The site is also mirrored on other Web sites around the world.

“Obviously, the idea that someone outraged by speech on a Web site can get an order telling a registrar to disable a domain name is troubling,” SPJ President Clint Brewer said. “And the judge’s order to take down the bank documents is even more disturbing.”

Brewer and other SPJ Leaders are concerned about what amounts to prior restraint against a Web site that disseminates information submitted by whistleblowers. In this particular case, an anonymous source reportedly submitted papers that showed money laundering and tax evasion schemes at the bank’s Cayman Islands branch.

Other media groups signing the amicus brief include: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Scripps Howard, Associated Press, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Gannett and the Newspaper Association of America.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists — the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization — promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For further information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.

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