Saturday, March 1, 2008

Judge rethinks prior restraint on Wikileaks site

Judge rethinks prior restraint on Wikileaks site

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The whistleblower site Wikileaks.org may resume its U.S. operation following a hearing in California federal court today, where Judge Jeffrey S. White dissolved a previous order that required the site to be taken offline and indicated he would not approve a second order prohibiting the site's publication.

The Feb. 15 orders had required domain name service provider Dynadot to cut off access to the Wikileaks site, disabling the Web address. A Swiss bank had asked the court to require the site to be taken down, arguing it disclosed private banking records.

Acting as a friend of the court, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and several other media organizations asked the judge earlier this week to take notice of the prior restraint that occurred as a result of those orders. Wikileaks had not appeared in court to defend against charges by the bank that it had improperly posted private information and no First Amendment concerns were raised before the Court.

White's order of today dissolved the injunction that had prohibited Dynadot from allowing Wikileaks.org to be accessible. It also "tentatively" denied the bank's request for an order that would keep Wikileaks from independently publishing itself online.

"It's not very often a federal judge does a 180 degree turn in a case and dissolves an order," said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. "But we're very pleased the judge recognized the constitutional implications in this prior restraint."

White is expected to issue a full opinion on the matter in the near future. The media coalition's brief in the case can be found at: www.rcfp.org/news/documents/20080229-amicusbrie.pdf

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