Court Will Decide Whether American Journalist Is Silenced

September 3, 2013

In the United States, we have increasingly seen attacks on the free press. Now, in the case of Barrett Brown, an American journalist who has been jailed for the last year stands to lose his free speech.

As if indicting him three times on a century worth of charges related to his work was not enough, the government has engaged in draconian, vindictive and frivolous measures, including the intimidation of family members with legal threats, a failed motion to seize funds intended for private legal representation, and a subpoena served for a research/news-gathering website.

Last month the prosecution requested for the court to restrict Brown and his attorneys’ use of the media, and instruct them not to make statements to the press. Tomorrow, on September 4th in Dallas, the Honorable Court of District Judge Sam A. Lindsay will hold a hearing on this matter.

The government alleged that Brown intended to use the pretrial phase to “try the case in the media” and that the defense was coordinating, approving, soliciting or encouraging the services of the media. The publicity about Brown thus far, they pleaded, contains “gross fabrications and substantially false recitations of facts.” Ironically, the request for a media gag order has brought more publicity upon the case, with coverage from VICEHuffington PostSalon and CPJ.

In response, Brown’s lawyers noted that “Mr. Brown has made no statements to the media since…[they] appeared on the case” and demonstrated that the government’s request for a gag order is without merit. The government had cited a number of activities by the Free Barrett Brown organization, which retained but works independently of Brown and his attorneys, as support. The defense contended that “Brown has a First Amendment right to speak and publish on matters unrelated to his case” while arguing “activities by Mr. Brown’s supporters, and other members of the public, are irrelevant and should have no bearing on the issue.”

“This case is of tremendous public interest which grows every day, and the prosecution is obviously unhappy with scrutiny of their actions and, apparently, our support efforts. It’s truly unprecedented. A gag on Barrett and/or his attorneys would amount to prior restraint and will only impede the public’s right-to-know whether he is receiving due process and impose de facto secrecy on the proceedings. The fact that the defendant is an established journalist has profound implications for freedom of the press and the state of our justice system.” said Kevin Gallagher, founder of the Barrett Brown Legal Defense Fund.

The hearing is on Wednesday at 10AM in the federal courthouse located at 1100 Commerce St. in Dallas, TX.

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