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Americans Split On Media’s Rights Following WikiLeaks Scandal

January 6, 2011 by  

Americans split on media's rights following WikiLeaks scandalIn the wake of the WikiLeaks scandal, Americans are divided about the extent of protection granted by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

In a new BBC World News America/Harris Poll, approximately 69 percent of those surveyed said that publishing classified documents can pose a security threat to the U.S., and therefore should be illegal. However, about 48 percent said that the First Amendment "gives organizations and individuals the right to post any information given to them."

Nearly 40 percent of Americans agreed that WikiLeaks serves an important role by helping provide transparency in the Federal government, whereas 47 percent disagreed with that claim. About 39 percent of respondents said that investigative journalism should be regulated by the government, compared to 43 percent who said there shouldn't be any regulation.

While Americans were split on their interpretation of the First Amendment, and how it applies to the media, a 62 percent majority agreed that the government should "keep some secrets for national security, international diplomacy and other reasons." Only 13 percent said that the government should keep no secrets.

The U.S. government is still considering whether to prosecute WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. In response, the Committee to Protect Journalists has sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, suggesting that any legal action against Assange would violate the First Amendment's protections of free speech and the press. 

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