Thursday, April 28, 2005 - Bloggers deserve the 'journalist's privilege' - Apr 27, 2005

One of the difficulties of commenting on American law is a little something called the Federal System. What this means is that the states have tremendous powers in deciding what laws shall govern the affairs of its own state. As a result, what is the law under one state may not be similar in another. Hence the hillarity that ensues when American lawyers refer to 'foreign law', they actually generally mean out-of-state law. And also, the shamefulness of what Bush did in the Terri Shiavo affair by attempting to circumvent the authority of the prior 17 court decisions and attempting to force a blank slate on the federal court to force Terri Shiavo to 'live' against her will in a Persistent Vegitative State (PVS).

Aside: Another painful letter from a medical doctor today who seems to have been reading about the Shiavo case from some fundamentalist news source if he even read it at all. Why are doctors basically having an absoute monopoly on the debate on living and dying in Singapore? After all, have we not moved after from medical paternalism and the erronous belief that doctors know best? Should the role of the doctor not be that of serving the patient's best interests? Note serving as opposed to determining.

Anyway, back to the article. It seems that in California, bloggers are subjected to the same legal liabilities as publishers are (note: search engines contrary to popular belief are not publishers and hence are not liable for the content of the sites they archive). So, bloggers can be sued for defamation and dissemination of information like trade secrets amongst other tortable offences. So that is the gist of one of the arguments made, that if bloggers are subject to the same threats, why not grant them equivalant protection under the Constitution for journalist?

Locally, the MDA has said that they would 'request' bloggers to register their site if they delve too much into the arena of politics. Thus far, the authorities have not made any heavy handed attempts to control online speech (barring Sintercom), possibily because of the proliferation of blogs and sites dedicated to too many people writing what they think and feel. So just like a mirco-version of the internet, it's a little too big to comfortably monitor. Now admittedly, I could be wrong and people from MHA or other ministries could be reading our blogs (not mine, unless they have been spoofing their IPs, but um just for the record, I'm willing to be co-opted).

One of the problems of course, is that our notion of fair comment is a lot stricter (a massive understatement) than that of the USA. It's alot closer to the U.K. version but even then, they have much more freedom on what they are allowed to publish without getting hit with a defamation suit. Article 14 of our Constitution gives us the right to the freedom of speech. but note sub-articles a) and b) which are your basic massive qualifiers. So if push comes to shove and a letter comes your way, I honestly doubt if any blogger would be willing to risk legal action rather than delete the offending messages or to take down the blog or simply to register it.

But until that day, keep blogging. Peace.


At 6:44 AM, Blogger ivan said...,1284,66630,00.html?tw=wn_story_page_prev2

you might want to consider this.


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