Blurring the Line Between Bloggers and Journalists

A decision by a federal judge in Oregon rippled through the blogosphere after the court ruled bloggers are not media and a Montana blogger must pay $2.5 million in damages.

An Oregon attorney, Kevin Padrick, and the company he co-founded, Obsidian Finance Group LLC, filed a defamation lawsuit against a blogger, Crystal L. Cox of Eureka, Mont., after she called him a thief and a thug on her blog and criticized how he handled a bankruptcy case.

In a written opinion, the judge, Marco Hernandez, ruled the protections that cover reporters working for mainstream media organizations did not apply to her because she is not a journalist.

“The court in that case pointed out that in Oregon, no journalist is protected in a defamation case,” said Nathan Siegel, an attorney who specializes in First Amendment law and an adjunct professor at The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. “The reality in that particular case is a journalist would not have been protected whether they were a blogger or not.”

Hernandez noted in his written opinion that the plaintiffs were not public figures and the bankruptcy proceedings she blogged about were not a matter of public concern.

Most courts find that the First Amendment protects all individuals from defamation suits whether they are a blogger or not, according to Siegel.

“The court in that case said that bloggers are not afforded any of those protections,” he said. “That’s a very unusual decision.”

The question of whether bloggers should be considered journalists has become imperative as the number of cases similar to the one in Oregon is increasing due to a jump in individuals creating blogs and the use of blogs by mainstream media organizations, according to Siegel.

In court, the question of whether journalists’ protections and privileges will be afforded to bloggers could boil down to employment, according to Siegel. Maryland’s shield law, which protects reporters from having to disclose information concerning confidential sources, applies to student journalists and reporters employed by news organizations.

Salisbury resident Jonathan Taylor, a blogger who created the Lower Eastern Shore News website, said bloggers should not be treated the same as journalists because journalists are held to higher standards. He said he views bloggers as being more of a supplement to journalists.

“While I do not believe bloggers are journalists, I think we should be afforded some protections,” he said.

Taylor said he often consults with his attorney before posting information on his website.

While the standards for journalists and bloggers may not be equal, Taylor said he believes there should be a code of ethics or conduct for bloggers.

“Blogs are a newer form of modern media, but there are no guidelines for what we do,” he said. “It’s like the wild West. Everybody can do what they want.”

Islamic Attack in Nigeria Spawns Fears of More Anti-Christian Violence

Yesterday’s tragic terror attack in Nigeria has many wondering if more violence — particularly acts against Christian believers — may be on the way.

Islamist Anjem Choudary Has Gone Mad

Radical Islamist Anjem Choudary, the jihadist who once called for the execution of the pope and whose militant group even asked if “the assassination of President Obama is legal” — has released a Christmas message in which he asserts that Jesus, if alive today, would be a practicing Muslim. Not only that but, according to Choudary, Jesus (who he refers to as “Isa”) would also be leading the crusade to free “Muslim land” and implement sharia law across the world.

The militant also claims that “Christmas has many evils associated with it” and that the “pagan holiday” is something that “Muslims must put on their agenda, to forbid and to invite people away from” by bringing them into Islam.

Read more here.

Iran reconsiders stoning adulteress: Would hang her instead

I guess on one level, you could congratulate the Iranians for making progress toward becoming civilized. Substituting a 19th century punishment for a 7th century punishment is a sign of growth in Iranian society.

But the notion of executing anyone for committing adultery wipes away any patina of progress and pegs the Iranian regime as a pariah state, worthy of the strongest condemnation.

Guardian:

Authorities in Iran say they are moving ahead with plans to execute a woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, but are considering whether to carry out the sentence by hanging instead.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is serving 10 years in prison for a separate conviction over the murder of her husband. After an international outcry last July, Iran suspended plans to carry out her death sentence.

On Sunday, a senior judiciary official said experts were studying whether the punishment of stoning could be changed to hanging.

“There is no haste. We are waiting to see whether we can carry out the execution of a person sentenced to stoning by hanging or not,” Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the head of the justice department of East Azerbaijan province – where Ashtiani is imprisoned – said, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

“As soon as the result [of the investigation] is obtained, we will carry out the sentence.”

The charge of a married woman having an illicit relationship requires a punishment of stoning, Sharifi added. He said the judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, had ordered a halt to stoning to allow Islamic experts to investigate whether the punishment could be altered in Ashtiani’s case.