Thursday, September 29, 2005

Times reporter released from jail

Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who has been jailed since July 6 for refusing to testify in the C.I.A. leak case, was released from a Virginia detention center this afternoon after she and her lawyers reached an agreement with a federal prosecutor to testify before a grand jury investigating the matter, the New York Times reports.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Reporters Without Borders publishes blogging handbook

Reporters Without Borders has published a Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents, which is available as a PDF download. The handbook is intended as a guide both to creating a blog and to maintaining anonymity as a blogger. As the handbook explains:
"Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest.

"Reporters Without Borders has produced this handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation."
More than a legal guide, the handbook is a how-to for new bloggers, with chapters on setting up blogs, gettting blogs recognized by search engines, and the ethics of blogging. These in addition to chapters on how to blog anonymously, technical ways to get around censorship, and ensuring e-mail is private.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bloggers as journalists: making new rules

This week's Coast to Coast podcast looks at the issue Bloggers as Journalists: Making New Rules. My cohost J. Craig Williams and I discuss this with four guests:
It is a vibrant discussion about bloggers and journalists and free speech. The podcast is available in streaming Windows Media format or as an MP3 download. Listen to it here or go here for the full library of previous Coast to Coast programs.

Round-up of useful sites for media lawyers

Law Technology News has posted my latest Web Watch column, Support for Media Lawyers: With Journalists Under Fire, Websites Offer Help. (LTN's site requires free registration to view articles.)

Monday, September 12, 2005

FOIA compliance deteriorating, report says

Government compliance with the Freedom of Information Act appears to be deteriorating in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a Society of Environmental Journalists report released today, A Flawed Tool - Environmental Reporters' Experiences with the Freedom of Information Act.

The SEJ interviewed 55 reporters, finding that excessive delays in releasing information are common - with some FOIA requests taking more than a year to fulfill. Even when documents are turned over, agencies frequently black out huge amounts of information, the report found.

Among the report's findings:
  • Three-quarters of the reporters interviewed who use FOIA on an occasional or frequent basis encountered significant delays in getting information from federal agencies. In some cases, those delays exceeded a year.
  • The federal agencies most cited for failing to respond promptly and fully were the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Food and Drug Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
  • Some agencies decline to answer routine inquiries for documents such as Superfund reports and underground mine inspection reports, forcing reporters to file time-consuming FOIA requests for the information.
"This report clearly shows that Congress needs to take action to make sure agencies are complying with the Freedom of Information Act, and should set up a system to punish those that aren't," said SEJ President Perry Beeman, who covers environment for The Des Moines Register.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Delaware court hears blog libel case

"DOVER - The Delaware Supreme Court waded chest-deep Wednesday into an Internet free-speech case, seeking to strike a balance between one person's right to free speech against another's claims of libel.

"Smyrna Town Councilman Patrick J. Cahill and his wife Julie filed the suit last year in Superior Court alleging they were defamed by four anonymous posters to a community issues Web log - or blog - on the Internet."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Podcast on Rehnquist, Roberts and the Supreme Court

The latest installment of Coast to Coast, the weekly legal news podcast cohosted by J. Craig Williams and I, is now available. Recorded earlier today, the program, titled Roberts' Rocky Road, brings together a formidable panel of guests to discuss the Roberts nomination and the future of the Supreme Court. Joining Craig and I were:
  • Craig Bradley, Indiana University School of Law professor and former law clerk for Justice Rehnquist.
  • Elliot Mincberg, vice president, general counsel and legal director, People for the American Way.
  • Lyle Denniston, veteran Supreme Court reporter for newspapers including the Baltimore Sun and now a contributor to SCOTUSblog.
  • Gail Heriot, University of San Diego School of Law professor and contributor to the blawg, The Right Coast.
You can find all the Coast to Coast programs on the Legal Talk Network. We welcome your feedback on the program and your suggestions for topics to cover in future shows.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Papers win bid for bankruptcy report

An investigative report compiled by a court-appointed bankruptcy examiner is a public record and must be made available to the news media, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday in Gitto v. Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Two media organizations, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp. and MediaNews Group Inc., sought release of the report. They prevailed in their request in both the bankruptcy court and the district court before the case reached the 1st Circuit.

The case arose after Gitto Global Corp., a Massachusetts plastics manufacturer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court appointed an examiner to investigate allegations of accounting irregularities.

Two former executives of the company argued that the resulting examiner's report should be impounded under 11 U.S.C. section 107(b)(2), which provides an exception to public access for documents that contain material that is scandalous and defamatory.

But the 1st Circuit rejected their argument that any material tending to harm a person's reputation triggers the exception. In so doing, the court affirmed that there is a long-standing common law presumption of public access to judicial records.

"To qualify for protection under the § 107(b)(2) exception for defamatory material," the court said, "an interested party must show (1) that the material at issue would alter his reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person, and (2) that the material is untrue or that it is potentially untrue and irrelevant or included for an improper end."