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Silha lecturer Paul Smith urges justices to find state law unconstitutional

WikiLeaks' Document Dump Sparks Debate

Anti-Secrecy Agenda Raises Concerns for Safety, Security

The website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of classified U.S. military documents on the Internet on July 25, 2010, igniting a debate about leaks, law, ethics, journalism, and national security on the digital frontier.

On April 20, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a federal law imposing criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly "creates, sells, or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty . . . for commercial gain," saying it was overly broad and violated the First Amendment right to free speech.

On November 30, the Supreme Court of the United States vacated a 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judgment ordering the release of 44 government-held photographs depicting detainee mistreatment at the hands of U.S. troops, remanding the case back to the appeals court for reconsideration under new legislation intended to prohibit publication of the photos. The high court's decision made it unlikely the photos will be released in the foreseeable future.

For the first time in the history of the Silha Center, the Center drafted and filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in August in a case that will be argued before the United States Supreme Court this December. The brief was written by Silha Center Director Jane Kirtley with the assistance of Silha Fellow Doug Peters and Silha Research Assistant Thomas Corbett. The brief is available on the Silha Center's Web site under "Resources" at www.silha.umn.edu.

In the days following the April 16, 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, media outlets scrambled to cover the event from every possible angle. One, NBC, found itself part of the story when the network received a package from shooter Seung-Hui Cho, apparently mailed mid-spree.

A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York overturned a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) indecency ruling against Fox Television, finding that the Commission’s new policy against one-time, unscripted use of expletives is “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act.

Two federal district judges have ordered six journalists to disclose their confidential government sources in Dr. Steven J. Hatfill’s federal Privacy Act lawsuit against the government.

Web Site Fights Off Federal Injunction

Following two weeks of intense scrutiny and widespread condemnation from media and free speech advocates, a federal judge on Feb. 29, 2008 reversed an order aimed at blocking all access to a Web site devoted to the unauthorized publishing of government and corporate documents.

Is there any institution the American public loves to hate more than the news media? Depending on your point of view, the institutional press is either irredeemably liberal or cravenly conservative, a toothless watchdog or a godless traitor, willing to do anything to sell newspapers or raise viewership ratings. News consumers marvel at the media’s fixation on the latest peccadilloes of a drunken starlet or a straying senator at the sacrifice of stories that “matter.” Anyone who has been the object of media attention “knows” that reporters are sloppy, arrogant, imprecise, agenda-driven, fixated on the negative, and, of course, biased. How could they be anything else, when no minimum education requirements, no licensing system, no mandatory ethics code, no disciplinary body can be used to keep the incompetents and undesirables out? And that’s just the mainstream media. What about those bloggers – the infamous geeks in pajamas, spreading rumors throughout the Internet and railing at anything and everything in cozy anonymity from their shadowy basement lairs, accountable to no one?

On July 21, 2008, the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia overturned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s imposition of a record-setting fine against CBS Corp. for its broadcast of the infamous 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show “wardrobe malfunction.”

Questions Raised over Preparations and Policies Regarding Media

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