31 January, 2007

Do bloggers get the same protections as print journalists? :: AHN

"Santa Clara, CA (AHN)-In a landmark ruling in favor of bloggers and cyber journalists, a Santa Clara County Court defended the First Amendment rights of online journalists to protect their confidential sources, effectively giving web journalists the same protections afforded to traditional print journalists."

Key quote:
Apple claimed the journalists were not entitled to First Amendment protections similar to those afforded to their print counterparts.

However, a California court disagreed, ruling against Apple and in favor of the defendants, who were represented by legal counsel from The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Apple was ordered to pay all legal costs associated with the defense, including a 2.2 times multiplier of the actual fees, bringing the total to about $700,000.
Read the whole thing.

Questions to consider:

1. Are all bloggers considered cyber journalists?

2. What are the protections for cyber journalists and bloggers in other parts of the world?


Back of House in DXB said...

Interesting... Considering the (self) censorship of most print journalists in the UAE, I don't think bloggers here should have to much confiendence in being protected.

I choose to maintain anonimity in my blog more for the sake of keeping my job. But I still have no illisions this would protect me if a local corporation wanted to sue me.

Lirun said...

be very careful about making such assumptions.. it may well be that the relevant persons blog had the traits and features of a journalistic media channel.. clearly the blog world leans heavy towards opinion driven writing and many many blogs may not be considered journalism..

this is pure speculation and not legal advice..

however at the same time i also care to ask.. how often as bloggers - if we are to seek the defences of journalism - do we ourselves abide by journalistic values ie:

a - accuracy

b - tracing all opinions to external sources

c - always presenting the other side to every argument where available and noting where it isnt

d - thoroughly researching our pieces

e - considering the true newsworthiness of our ideas

f - applying standards of writing excellence

g - considering community values

and secondly i would ask if this framework of journo protection should also apply to commenters who effectively run the echo of the blog..

food for thought..

bklyn_in_dubai said...

While lirun makes good points, we should also ask how often print journalists stick to these journalistic ideals. Rag papers like UK tabloids, or celebrity mags have basic protections even though their accuracy is sometimes (or very often) suspect. But so are the big, so-called objective ones like the NYTimes who often get it monumentally wrong (let's not forget the Judith Miller fiasco where she basically made stuff up which in part contributed to the Cheney/Bush justification for the war.)

If you as a blogger are putting out information that is not straightforward libel, why shouldn't you be afforded the same protections as other journalists in the US? (This case of course has nothing to do with journalism in the UAE or elsewhere, where the legal position of journalists differs.)

Hesham said...

I think that bloggers that follow the values lited by lirun should always be protected by the same laws that protect journalists.

secretdubai said...

I don't really see that journalists have or should have any special protection in most countries. We are all subject to the laws of defamation. So long as a blogger/online journalist is operating within this law, they should have the same defences of truth/privilege/fair comment and so forth. The problem is of course that amateur/less experienced jouranalists don't always understand what is defamatory, but it doesn't mean they have less right to expose issues.

After what is a "journalist"? Is it someone who has certain training/qualifications? If so what and from where? What about all the journalists that never formally studied for their profession and learnt on the job? Is it someone who currently works or has worked in a journalistic capacity for a news organisation? What about sacked journalists, do they count? Or freelance journalists without a commission, writing on spec? Or retired journalists? Or student journalists? Or specialist journalists who take it upon themselves to cover an area outside their experience (such as a doctor who writes a column for The Lancet suddenly writing about the OJ Simpson trial). There is no clear line on who is a journalist and who is not. Not all journalists belong to unions or trade associations. Not all journalists are "registered" as such with various authorities. So how do we define the people that deserve this special privilege anyway?

So I don't really get how previously this "protecting sources" privilege was applied. Did it only apply to certain publications, such as licensed ones/not underground publications? And does it only apply to publications within America? What happens if Apple demands the source of a leaked story in a German newspaper for example?

What I do think is that breaching trade secrets is breaching trade secrets, regardless of who you are and where you work. And unless there is a specific public interest defence, such as revealing X company's LCD technology because the screens are linked to cancer (I just made this up for example's sake - it's not true!) then trade secrets are trade secrets.

So as much as I love Apple and delight in reading rumours and leaks, I don't see how there is any justification to protect the source of a leaked trade secret whether in a blog or a newspaper. Just because something is "interesting to the public" does not mean it is necessarily "in the public interest" for the public to know it.

What is really needed is a law that protects whistleblowers who have deliberately revealed something that is in the public interest. Such as suppressed studies linking tobacco to cancer. Regardless of whether they have blabbed to a journalist or a blogger.

UAE Students said...

Great story and comments.I personally know of at least two UAE bloggers who were forced to leave the country because of their writing.

Lirun said...

i guess the difficulty is that many bloggers make no journalistic assertion over their work.. many provide highly subjective pieces that are basically there just to vent their emotion..

blogs can be highly offensive and contravene many laws that go well beyond defamation.. such as contempt.. racial vilifaction.. unlawful disclosures of confidentiality information - just to name a few.. these doctrines are dealt with differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and are protected by varying degrees of the local free-speech principle or lack thereof..

similarly - journalists in many cases have no privileges.. in some jurisdictions only lawyers and doctors have liegal privileges of secrecy.. not even a priest is entled to withhold information from a court.. furthermore.. withholding information with respect to an imminent crime may be cause the withholder to be considered a conspirer..

it is suc a vague space..

i guess the most important lesson to carry - as this post and its comments echo - is that blogging is not above the law.. whether or not you are anonymous doesnt help either..

Post a Comment

NOTE: By making a post/comment on this blog you agree that you are solely responsible for its content and that you are up to date on the laws of the country you are posting from and that your post/comment abides by them.

To read the rules click here

If you would like to post content on this blog click here