Friday, February 04, 2005

Free speech is for everyone

First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Over at The Blog Post I saw the following entry: Does the First Amendment apply to us bloggers as "the press," or are we merely citizens exercising our freedom of speech and expression? This was in response to an article in The Christian Science Monitor:

Are bloggers journalists? Do they deserve press protections?

An Apple lawsuit against the operators of fan websites stirs debate on whether bloggers can claim legal protections.

By Randy Dotinga | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

In the small universe of powerful bloggers, Joshua Micah Marshall and John Hinderaker are separated by 900 miles and an even wider political divide. Mr. Marshall leans to the left from Washington D.C., while Mr. Hinderaker, a Minneapolis attorney, sits firmly in the conservative camp. But the two men do share something in common: No one is really sure what to think of them.

Are they journalists with an obligation to check facts, run corrections, and disclose conflicts of interest? Or are they ordinary opinion-slingers, like barbers or bartenders, with no special responsibilities - or rights?

It is self-evident that we are endowed by our creator with certain rights, including free speech. It is not a privilege for press lords and those they ordain as journalists. It is a universal human right which no temporal authority can legitimately take away.

Let us put aside for the moment the public relations catastrophe of APPLE suing its most energetic product evangelists, and confine ourselves to the legal issues. First of all, does the preliminary release of a new product announcement constitute a violation of a trade secret? That seems hard to believe. Second, are bloggers covered by California’s shield law?

If it were up to Technoflak there would be no shield laws. They degrade our society by creating a political culture where no one will take responsibility for their words. Even worse, shield laws invite the criminal element to use journalists in such a way that the law can’t touch them. Let us be done with the evil practice of leaks and anonymous sources.

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