Established journalists groups have added their support in the case of three online journalists Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said his company is willing to pursue through the US Supreme Court.

Three Web sites: Think Secret, Apple Insider and PowerPage, were smacked down with lawsuits in December, when Apple began its pursuit of up to 25 individuals it believes disclosed confidential product information to the sites.

Apple is attempting to force the three long-established Mac news and rumour sites to disclose information about their sources; and has also issued legal action against the ISPs for those journalists that enable it to search through confidential emails from the three.

Independent journalists deserve protection

Editor and Publisher News reports that the: "Center for Individual Freedom, First Amendment Project, Media Bloggers Association, Reporters Without Borders, and several individual online journalists, bloggers, and other groups submitted a brief this week asking that the online publishers be allowed to keep sources confidential."

The groups fear that if Apple wins its case the effect will discriminate against non-mainstream journalists, effectively chilling the US press.

However, the journalist groups also maintain that only bloggers who report news should qualify for such protections.

Determined to quash rumours, Apple continues to insist the three sites it has launched action against are not news Web site, though industry observers consider them to be essential destinations in order to remain up to date with the Mac industry.

The submitted brief maintains that a news gatherers' privilege to protect its sources should be, "determined not by the reporter's formal status as a 'professional journalist,' but rather by the reporter's functional conduct in gathering information with the purpose of disseminating widely to the public."