Media may face legal issues for publishing Wikileaks cables

Washington, Dec 11 (ANI): The controversy created after the release of hundreds of US secret diplomatic cables have raised many important legal issues about national security and freedom of the press under U.S. law, according to Neil Richards, JD, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.

Journalists and government officials have suggested that either WikiLeaks or The New York Times (NYT) might face legal liability for publishing the contents of diplomatic cables and other leaked documents.In order to find either WikiLeaks/Julian Assange or the NYT liable, the government would need to prove two things - first that a law had been broken, and second that enforcement of the law was constitutional under the First Amendment," Richards said.

"In terms of finding a law that has been violated, the question is harder than might appear at first. This is mostly because our tradition of free press makes it hard to punish people for publishing the truth," he added.

Senator Joseph Lieberman and Attorney General Eric Holder have suggested a number of possibilities, including the Espionage Act and state secrets statutes, which punish the disclosure of national security information harmful to the United States.

However Richards said that in terms of the First Amendment, the pressmedia can be punished for the contents of its articles if one of four things are met: the material is false, not newsworthy, illegally obtained, or if there is a state interest of the highest order.

"The first two exceptions aren't relevant here because the WikiLeaks cables are both true and newsworthy. Indeed, this it's is exactly because people want to know the embarrassing truth contained in the cables that the government wants to restrict it," he added. (ANI)

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