Wednesday, January 20, 2016

JOURNALISM AND SHIELD LAWS: WHEN THE “WHO” CEASES TO MATTER

"Shield Laws: “legal rules which protect journalists against the government requiring them to reveal confidential sources or other information.” (SPJ, http://www.spj.org/shieldlaw-faq.asp)

The question on who should be considered a journalist with regards to shield laws is an important one, but one that derives from the presupposition that the comprehension of the meaning of “journalist” is necessary to understand the subjects and scope of shield norms. Though these laws were originally intended and designed to protect journalists, their configuration and construction raises an important question: Why only “journalists”? If shield laws provide special protection under the idea that by doing so they protect the free flow of information, how free is that flow if only some are allowed to affect it under protection? It would seem that the free flow of information would demand, due to its own nature, that protection is not a selective offer of the Law, but a democratized right, that distinguishes not on who (subjective criterion) has access to it but on why (objective criterion).

A different -yet related- question, takes us to similar answers. If we would approach the question “who is a journalist”, with the intention of defining who is protected by shield laws, the search for an answer would probably take us to an ever-broadening concept.

Immersed in this digital age, in the days of micro-blogging, online magazines, and social media, we can hardly tell the difference between a “journalist” and a person who blogs about certain issues and has investigated and revealed important information… whether that person should (or should not) be shielded by the law with regards to source disclosure.

Judicial decisions have also been shifting away from the traditional idea of the shield law subjects. Hence, though some jurisdictions (i.e. the District of Oregon) have defined shield law beneficiaries with a traditional outlook limiting it to professionals with a degree in journalism or people associated to a news outlet (United States District Court for the District of Oregon in Obsidian Finance Group, LLC  v. Cox), increasingly, others have presented a less orthodox approach, a more inclusive notion that also encompasses bloggers without these professional backgrounds.

As the New Hampshire Supreme Court declared, “freedom of the press is a fundamental personal right which is not confined to newspapers and periodicals.” (The Mortgage Specialist, Inc. v. Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc.)

Therefore, the need to define who is or is not a journalist, with relation to shield laws, has been diminishing. Today, the question is more often “Why do shield laws beneficiaries have to fit a category (i.e.: journalists), that by doing what categories do, excludes?” and “Who can really tell who is definitively and fixedly not a journalist (or a potential journalist) in this digital age? ”

Source
http://thesocialsciencepost.com/en/2016/01/journalism-and-shield-laws-when-the-who-ceases-to-matter/

Grosjean v. American Press Co. - Obsidian v. Cox Citing

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grosjean_v._American_Press_Co.

Journal of Media Law - Obsidian v. Cox case cited

Journal of Media Law

Volume 7, Issue 2, 2015
Special Issue:   Privacy Law Ten Years after Campbell


Click Below to Read

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/17577632.2015.1111552

Blogger gets same speech protections as traditional press: U.S. court

"A blogger is entitled to the same free speech protections as a traditional journalist and cannot be liable for defamation unless she acted negligently,"

""As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable," 9th Circuit Judge Andrew Hurwitz wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel."

Source
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-blogger-ruling-idUSBREA0G1HI20140117

the Opposition in the above case paint Defendant / Investigative Blogger Crystal Cox in false light, they spread the story that Cox sought money for a retraction, and they spread a piece of a settlement negotiation to fake their claims. Cox NEVER received money to remove any of her anti-corruption blog posts.


Yes First case of it's Kind. Landmark case. NO Crystal Cox had NO history of seeking payoff for retractions. NOT one. Not Ever.

"a
Appeals court overturns defamation award against blogger
A panel of 9th Circuit judges rules that bloggers have the same 1st Amendment protections as traditional news media.
January 17, 2014|By Maura Dolan
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SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court unanimously overturned a defamation award against a blogger Friday, ruling that 1st Amendment protections for traditional news media extend to individuals posting on the Web.

"The protections of the 1st Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities," Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz wrote for a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The panel said its holding was the first of its kind within the 9th Circuit, though other circuit courts have held that individuals have the same free speech rights as the news media.

"This case is the first one from a federal court of appeals that specifically protects the rights of bloggers," said UCLA constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh, who represented blogger Crystal Cox on appeal."

Source
http://articles.latimes.com/2014/jan/17/local/la-me-blogger-1st-amendment-20140118