Journalistic protection for online journalists and bloggers

By EDRi · June 7, 2006

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

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.

Decision in Apple v. 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)