Friday, February 7, 2014

"Why a U.S. court ruled bloggers and journalists should be equally protected"

"Further, Cox, as a “mere” blogger is not entitled to invoke the definition of actual malice established in the New York Times vs. Sullivan case. The 1964 US Supreme Court ruling set the precedent for the rule that journalists can only be held liable for false information if they knew of its falsity or in utter disregard of the same. Ten years after Sullivan, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gertz v. Robert Welch that the First Amendment required only a “negligence standard for private defamation actions.”

The First Amendment refers to an amendment to the Constitution of the U.S. that guarantees the right to free expression that includes freedom of speech, freedom of the press; or the right of the people to peaceful assembly, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

"The dilemma is precisely because of a lack of precision on who are, in fact, in the law defined as journalists. In fact, a separate definition on who a journalist is indicates a lack of consensus even from those who profess to practice the profession. "

"The normative values of these two freedoms are identical: to discern the truth and to facilitate “open, robust and even virulent discussion of pubic issues.” If both freedoms have the same normative content, why should the courts distinguish between an input to the market place of ideas coming from one who earns a living by it and one who does so anyway as a public duty?

The U.S. Court of Appeal’s decisions, in my view, correctly refused a distinction between institutional media and bloggers because to recognize such would also violate the equal protection clause. This is another constitutional guarantee that those similarly situated will be treated alike.

Had the court limited the protection of freedom of expression to professional journalists alone, it would send the message that only professional journalists can contribute to the public debate on public issues. This is contrary to the basic tenet that freedom of expression is a human right, not just a right of journalists.

In any case, the fact that journalists are paid and bloggers are not does not constitute a real basis for distinction.

In Abrams, Holmes wrote; “the true test of truth is the power of a thought to be accepted in the market place of ideas.” Certainly, Holmes did not write that only paid journalists could contribute to this market. — KDM, GMA News "

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