Bloggers more vulnerable than journos?

Jeff Jarvis on the blogger who landed in jail for not revealing his sources. It raises an important question (to us bloggers at the very least) about where the line between blogging and journalism exists in the eyes of the law?

Adds: Whatever you think about the merits of his actual case, it is certainly one worth seeing fought out. To do that the guy needs money, so hit the donation button on the side of Josh Wolf’s blog!

  • Pete Baker


    Some very interesting points raised by Jeff Jarvis. I’ll pick up one of them

    And what are the responsibilities of journalists as citizens to report crime and aid the prosecution? I was in the habit of calling bloggers “citizen journalists” (I’ve since updated my blogictionary and now call this networked journalism because, as I said above, it’s dangerous to define journalism by who does it). Oftentimes, when I used the phrase “citizen journalist,” professional journalists would complain to me, “Well, we’re citizens, too!” Indeed, we are. So what is our responsibility to society in criminal matters?

    It’s perhaps the one most relevant to here. I’ve seen in the past court cases brought by the police to force TV companies to hand over footage of riots. The interesting point is that those companies always protest all the way up to the judgement, which is always a ruling forcing them to hand it over.. it’s a dance.. everyone knows the outcome, but the forcing of the issue is an important step that allows cameramen and journalists a freedom to report.

    If I remember correctly, the issue of how that will apply to networked journalism, not a bad phrase at all btw, was raised by Richard Delevan with regard to the riot in Dublin when a large number of images from phones and cameras started appearing on the net and the Guardai issued a request for images to be forwarded.. not sure if there was an update on it.. but it was flagged at the time.

  • Is there really a legal protection for journalistic sources or is this something that journalists assert and are usually willing to go to jail in defense of?

    The journalists in the recent Valerie Plame shenanigans in the states didn’t have any such source protection rights.

    If I’m correct about the law then the real difference between professional journos and their blogging versions is the financial support and legal backing that a newspaper can bring to bear on the govt. Resources a blogger normally does not have access to.

  • bertie

    If the images were on the web why would the Garda need to get anyone to froward them. Or am I being really dense and they want the links as they might be not be aware of them all and to have the ones that aren’t available on the web

  • Pete Baker

    It’s stretching back a bit in my memory, bertie, but I think it was a case of the Garda requesting any and all images to be sent to them.

  • harpo

    ‘If the images were on the web why would the Garda need to get anyone to froward them. Or am I being really dense and they want the links as they might be not be aware of them all and to have the ones that aren’t available on the web’


    They would want all possible material that exists. Thus if photograher X takes 80 shots at a riot, but only puts 5 of them on the web, the police would be interested in having the other 75 that he didn’t upload.

    They may not have been exciting by the standards of the photographer, but they could provide the police with evidence of who was there and what they were doing.

    I think the issue here though is a related one. While people who were merely witnesses to events during a riot say may be happy to share all 80 of their shots with the police, folks who were perps during the riot also took pictures, posting them to boast about their exploits. We saw that in relation to the Dublin riots – lots of photos uploaded by IR rioters to show how they supposedly had a good go at the ‘orangies’ and the police.

    The thread opener raises the possibility of the authorities going after such people. They are unlikely to volunteer to the police any evidence of events that they have, but the authorities could go after them to get their hands on photos for example, or even to question them about what they witnessed.

  • bertie

    I saw loads of stuff on the riots on the web with clearly identifyable people. Does anyone know what the latest is on arrests/convictions. I think that the ordinary gard did a spendid job on the day but that is only art of it. the follow through is the arrests and convictions etc.

  • Occasional Commentator

    From the Guardian:

    But what is to stop any witness to a crime from blogging and claiming to be a journalist, cutting off prosecutors from evidence needed to try criminals? Yes, what would stop Tony Soprano from blogging to claim the shield: ‘I’m what you call a citizen journalist. You godda problem wid dat?’

    Doesn’t the same question apply to professional journalists? Surely writing a newspaper article on a crime you have participated in wouldn’t give you any legal protection. The issue is whether the person was there as an observer or as a participant, not whether they are paid employees of traditional media.

  • na

    Is this blog supporting/ambivalent to, the withholding of evidence in a criminal case and endorsing funding the accused?

    If so, cool…radical blog guys.

  • Occasional Commentator

    We should always make sure the accused is well funded, especially if we disagree. The ‘truth’ can only be called the truth if it can easily defend itself against the most able opponent.