Friday, January 23, 2015

Chilling First Amendment Implications of Journalist Barrett Brown's Five-Year Sentence

Barrett Brown, dressed in a bright yellow prison jumpsuit, gave a quick, approving nod to the writer who shouted, "Stay strong, Barrett!" in a Dallas courtroom Thursday, just after a federal judge sentenced the 33-year-old journalist and transparency activist to 63 months in prison on three federal charges, in a case which has chilling implications for journalists and researchers across the US.

Some would argue the reporter who called out to Brown crossed the blurry line between journalistic observer and active participant. But her gesture of solidarity serves as a fitting illustration of a couple of the key questions raised in a case which has lingered for more than two years before finally coming to a close Thursday: Who is "really" a journalist, and what constitutes crossing that increasingly precarious line?


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