Narco News First Amendment Trial Begins, Electronic Frontier Foundation Files Amicus Brief 7/20/01

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The Drug War on Trial case has its first hearing today, Friday, July 20th, at the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan. The hearing is open to the press and public, and will take place at 71 Thomas Street (corner of West Broadway, across from the Odeon Cafeteria, near the Chambers St. Station on the 1,2,3 and 9 trains), Courtroom #205, Justice Paula Omansky presiding. The hearing begins at 9:30am, and will be followed by a Narco News press conference.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a leading organization defending first amendment rights in the cyber-age, filed an amicus brief in support of the Narco News Bulletin's right to publish. A complete copy of the brief is available at http://www.narconews.com/effamicus.html online, as well as other briefs in the case through the Narco News home page. Some excerpts from EFF's memorandum follow:

  • "The new independent journalists of the Internet, as personified by Al Giordano, play a crucial role in preserving the democratic aspirations of First Amendment protection. The role of such journalists is especially salient as mainstream media is increasingly in the hands of fewer and fewer large corporations."
  • "The application of New York substantive law to claims alleging libel for statements made on a foreign website where the great majority of the alleged harm occurred in a foreign jurisdiction will encourage explicit forum shopping by plaintiffs. Independent, online publishers will be less willing to partake in spirited investigative journalism... The excessive burden placed upon independent, Internet-based journalists in defending themselves in distant fora chills online journalistic activity, implicating online First Amendment rights that are of central concern to the Electronic Frontier Foundation."
  • "Independent, Internet journalism embodies the democratic vision of the 'freedom of the press' clause of the First Amendment. Journalists like Al Giordano are able to post their investigative efforts and the efforts of others via the Internet to the entire world, with incredibly low production and distribution costs. Given that mainstream media is increasingly in the hands of fewer and fewer corporations, the Internet is a crucial outlet for independent media projects such as Narconews.com. The Supreme Court notably remarked the vital importance of an independent press in a time of corporate and government conglomeration in Branzburg v. Hayes, 92 S.Ct. 2646 (1972): 'As private and public aggregations of power burgeon in size and the pressures for conformity necessarily mount, there is obviously a continuing need for an independent press to disseminate a robust variety of information and opinion through reportage, investigation, and criticism, if we are to preserve our constitutional tradition of maximizing freedom of choice by encouraging diversity of expression.'"
  • "Banamex's hopes for a 'second chance' to litigate this dispute are explicit in this case. After a lengthy criminal libel trial lasting more than two years, a Mexican judge ruled that Banamex had not been libeled by the Mexican Newspaper Por Esto! which conducted the investigation republished by Narconews.com. This decision was upheld on appeal in Mexico in May of last year, and a third attempt to press criminal charges in Mexico was thrown out of court."
  • "A finding of jurisdiction would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment given the harm that will ensue to online publishers such as Mr. Giordano. As the Internet subjects online journalists to an increasing number of foreign jurisdictions, the doctrine of forum non conveniens has taken on an even more important role in protecting online freedom of the press. Through operating as a 'safeguard' against suit in distant jurisdictions, forum non conveniens minimizes the burden that online journalists must endure when the legality of their news stories is challenged in a court of law. The doctrine of forum non conveniens as applied to libel cases involving online journalism, and mass media in general, thus offers a distinct way to protect and bolster the First Amendment rights of journalists and publishers."

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Issue #195, 7/20/01 Editorial: Robert Downey's Business | Prescription for Prosecution: Feds Go After Oxy Docs in Southwestern Virginia | BC Marijuana Industry Approaching Critical Mass, DEA Not Happy | Ditchweed Update: DEA Numbers | Narco News First Amendment Trial Begins, Electronic Frontier Foundation Files Amicus Brief | Media Scan: Columbia Journalism Review on Cincinnati, Arianna Huffington on Colombia | For Sale: Merchandise and Services to Benefit the Cause | HEA Campaign Gets Media: Student Victim Cases Still Needed | Urgent Action Alerts: Colombia, HEA, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana, John Walters | The Reformer's Calendar
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