JIP Protests Florida Plan To Cut Blog Court Coverage

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director

The Justice Integrity Project Feb. 1 filed a “strong objection” to the Florida Bar Association Feb. 1 on its proposed rule to curtail the nation’s historic freedom of the press by inventing a false constitutional distinction between corporate-controlled media and other journalists. Much of proposed rule 2.451 is to enable judges to prevent jurors from using recording devices during trials, which is doubtless a legitimate procedure. But part of the proposal would extend the rule also to others in the courtroom unless they were journalists, according to definitions created by the government.

Our protest said there is no basis in the Constitution for such a distinction, especially since newspaper reporters at the time of the Bill of Rights were far more akin to today’s individual bloggers than the corporate-owned media. Furthermore, we noted that bloggers and other citizen journalists are fulfilling vital civic watchdog functions that the corporate-owned media are abandoning for a variety of reasons, including their dwindling finances, conflict of interest with their corporate affiliates and inexperience by staff. “Citizen journalists, many of whom must work individually, are required to fill the gap,” we wrote in noting our experience at the Project, as well as previous experience of mine own. It includes 14 years working at the Hartford Courant and authoring a 1987 book, “Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America’s Oldest Newspaper about the trend whereby corporate-owned news organizations succumb to conflicts in reporting fairly on major articles involving the public interest.

“Even more important," we said, "the Florida bar’s effort to curtail citizen oversight clearly violates our nation’s constitutional free press protections -- and reeks of improper and illegal self-interest in preventing public scrutiny of the legal process, including incompetent, conflicted or otherwise deficient attorneys.” The deadline for comments in Florida’s fast-track proceeding was yesterday, but it can’t hurt if others fight the proposal as well with late submissions. Further background on this is provided by the article below, published Jan. 31. It prompted me to write a letter and encourage others to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Censored, Attorneys Attack Rights of Citizen Journalists, Mark Adams, JD, MBA, Jan. 31, 2011. The Florida Bar has proposed a new rule to eliminate coverage of court proceedings by citizen journalists. The Bar’s proposed rule prohibits anyone other than an employee of a traditional media outlet or an official court reporter from using any device which can make video or audio recording from being brought into a court including laptop computers. Of course, the proposed rule allows the courts to continue to record you, but unfortunately, the courts usually don’t want to give up their own recordings without a fight even though they are required to do so.

 

Unfortunately, the Bar didn’t give the public much notice or time to act. If you don’t want the Florida Supreme Court to pass the Florida Bar’s new rule violating the rights of citizen journalists, by the end of the day on Feb. 1, 2011, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with a subject stating, “Objection to Proposed Rule 2.451″ and with the body stating, “I oppose the provisions of proposed Fla. R. Jud. Admin 2.451 which limit the rights of citizen journalists to record court proceedings.”

Additional news clips from the past two days on related subjects illustrate how the fight for freedom of information requires constant vigilance from each of us. the articles are excerpted below. Links to the full articles are available in our ongoing feature "News Reports," which is accessible via a tab at the top of our homepage.

Below are excerpts from significant articles on legal reform and related political, security and media factors.

Huffington Post, WH Reporters Send Terse Letter To Gibbs Over Press Shop's Handling Of Egypt, Sam Stein, Feb. 2, 2011. The White House Correspondents Association, of which The Huffington Post is a member, sent a sharply worded letter to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Wednesday, complaining of limited access to the president and Gibbs himself as chaos in Egypt unfolded. The note includes a formal protest over the press office's decision to keep the president's signing of the START nuclear nonproliferation treaty off-limits to everyone but still photographers. But the main thrust of the critique involves Gibbs's handling of media relations during the past week, when the president has taken no questions and the daily briefings have been either delayed or canceled altogether.

Independent (United Kingdom), Secular and devout. Rich and poor. They marched together with one goal, Robert Fisk, Feb. 2, 2011. The cries of loathing for Mubarak are becoming familiar, the posters ever more intriguing. "Neither Mubarak, nor Suleiman, and we don't need you Obama – but we don't dislike USA," one of them announced generously. "Out – all of you, including your slaves," announced another.

Huffington Post, Michele Bachmann: 'Naked Pictures' Of Me Could Show Up On Internet After Full-Body Scan, Feb. 1, 2011. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) recently announced her opposition to the federal Transportation Security Administration's full-body scanners due to worries that "naked pictures" of herself could somehow end up on the internet for the world to see after being screened.  Bachmann told patrons at an Iowa coffee shop that she planned on opting out of such security procedures in order to avoid the possibility that such exposing images could end up online. While certain full-body scan images have indeed been leaked, TSA officials have maintained that the devices' ability to save and upload images is disabled once they are deployed at airports.