Protection for online journalists and bloggers

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The Californian appeal court decided on 26 May that online journalists and bloggers have the same right to protect their sources as all other journalists. The case was brought to court by Apple Computer demanding from a number of news website operators to reveal the source of confidential information posted about some of its products.

Initially the trial court had ruled in favour of Apple but the appeal court changed this decision stating that the defendants were protected by California's reporter's shield law, as well as the constitutional privilege against disclosure of confidential sources.

A major point in the case was whether the writers involved deserved the protection of the First Amendment and the sites involved could be considered a "newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication" as it is expressed by the law.

The Californian Court of Appeal's decision is considered as a major victory for press freedom. "This is a victory for the rights of journalists, be they online or offline journalists, and it's a victory for the public at large", said Kurt Opsahl, the staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the group that represented the journalists. "It protects the free flow of information to the press and from the press to the public".

Reporters Without Borders added: "The Californian appeal court's decision is historic because it gives a new legitimacy to bloggers. Even though they do not have press cards, they will henceforth have right of place in the world of news and information".

The case highlights the lack of precedents in the UK regarding the journalistic protection. The Contempt of Court Act of 1981 is an equivalent act protecting journalists and although the law does not provide absolute protection for sources, the court is required to decide whether the request for source identification is sufficiently in the public, justice or national security interest to over-ride a general presumption of source protection. Recent cases have tended to favour the journalist's right to protect his sources.

John MacKenzie, a Solicitor Advocate and partner with Pinsent Masons law firm suggested that the Contempt of Court Act is broad enough to cover operators of Internet news wires, blogs or other new media content.
(source : EDRI-gram newsletter Number 4.11, 7 June 2006)

Decision in Apple vs Does (20.05.2006)

Huge Win for Online Journalists' Source Protection (26.05.2006)

Court ruling protecting bloggers' sources hailed as historic (30.05.2006)

UK bloggers also likely to be Apple-proof (01.06.2006)

1 Comment

It's great to know there's more protection given to bloggers and journalists.

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