Help ‘Protect Your Voice’ strengthen citizen journalists, blogger rights

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Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, recently wrote a Washington Examiner op-ed regarding the free speech threats which bloggers and other citizen journalists increasingly face.

From the piece:

This past December, federal judge Marco Hernandez of Oregon issued a ruling in the libel trial of Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox that has dangerous First Amendment implications.

Hernandez ruled that blogger Crystal Cox was not entitled to the same protection under media shield laws that other members of the press enjoy. This ruling made it easy for a jury to find her guilty of libel. That result threatens the First Amendment rights of all citizen-journalists.

With the Internet increasingly serving as the dominant source of information, a national debate has been taking place asking the question, who is a journalist? Legal scholars, journalism academics and First Amendment advocates all have their opinions and as expected, there is little agreement.

But why is this issue so complicated? Bloggers, like all citizens of the United States, have First Amendment rights. Has the definition of a journalist changed? Or has perception and therefore legal definition simply not adjusted to modern technology?

According to Professor Kyu Ho Youm of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, Judge Hernandez “ruled correctly” in the Cox case. But he also acknowledges that the ruling was based on his “textual interpretation” and that “pre-Internet law needs updating.”

Youm offers a wake-up call to state legislators. Media shield laws must be revised to make clear that bloggers and all citizen-journalists deserve the same protection as the city hall beat-writer at the local newspaper.

This is especially important, as technology and new economic realities have forced newspapers all over the country to cut staff drastically and in many cases, close up shop. The public now relies on citizen-journalists to perform an invaluable service to our democracy — serving as government watchdogs.

Read more.

Attribution:

First Amendment protects bloggers, too
Jason Stverak
February 18, 2012
The Washington Examiner
http://washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/2012/02/first-amendment-protects-bloggers-too/280586

Stverak goes on to discuss a campaign called Protect Your Voice, an initiative of the Franklin Center that seeks to “organize the voices of news consumers and the journalism profession.”

A Protect Your Voice online petition says:

“By signing the petition, you agree that citizen-Journalists and Bloggers should not be penalized for providing a valuable service to our country. Citizen-journalists and bloggers in every state deserve to be included in the state’s shield laws and granted Freedom of the Press rights. By signing the petition below, you are helping bloggers get one step closer to the equal protection of journalists when reporting.”

The Franklin Center contends that the drastic decline in statehouse reporters is a “threat to democracy.” The news organization praises bloggers for filling this void and “informing their citizenry of its elected officials’ actions.” The organization goes on to advocate for citizen-journalists demanding “the same protections as reporters in the court room.”

Just two weeks ago while attending a local court hearing, Estate of Denial® was singled out by an attorney who in cross-examination asked a witness who we were and if we had some media capacity.  This particular incident struck us as a When ‘goofy’ goes to court moment.  That said, the comment in the context of the hearing suggested concern that despite the (likely welcomed) absence of “traditional” media sources, details of this public proceeding could still surface via new media platforms, platforms which the public increasingly views as sources for accurate, credibly-delivered news and information.

“Goofy” isn’t alone in wanting to silence a movement that is bringing transparency and accountability to public discourse like never before.  For those of us who generate content, protecting our voices is critical.  For those who consume the content, protecting your access to this information is also critical.

We hope you’ll join us in the Protect Your Voice effort.

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