San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a broad coalition of advocacy organizations sent an open letter to U.S. lawmakers today, calling on government officials to respect freedom of expression in the debate over the whistle-blower website Wikileaks.
In the wake of Wikileaks’ recent publications of U.S. diplomatic cables, some lawmakers have attacked newspapers’ rights to report on the information in those documents. Other government officials have cast doubt on Americans’ right to download, read, or discuss documents published by Wikileaks and even the news reporting based on those documents. Rash legislation was proposed that could limit the free speech of news reporting organizations well beyond Wikileaks. In the open letter sent Wednesday, 30 groups urged lawmakers to remember and respect constitutional rights as Congress continues to discuss the issues at stake.
“By likening publishers and reporters to spies and cyber-terrorists, some government officials have irresponsibly created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty leading many to question their rights to publish, read and discuss the Wikileaks cables,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. “But American law is well settled on these issues: the First Amendment strongly protects publishers’ right to distribute truthful political information, and Internet users have a fundamental right to read and debate it.”
In a congressional hearing about Wikileaks last week, all seven witnesses to the House Judiciary Committee cautioned against attempts to suppress free speech and criticized the overwhelming secrecy that permeates the U.S. government. The coalition joining the open letter today similarly called for caution against any new laws that could weaken the principles of free expression that are vital to our democracy.
“In a free country, the government cannot and does not have unlimited power to determine what publishers can publish and what the public can read,” said EFF Activist Rainey Reitman. “We encourage a robust public debate about Wikileaks and the secret government documents, but lawmakers must protect the rights of all involved.”
For the full open letter:
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