defamation

Another court declares that bloggers are indeed media

While my own case winds slowly through the judicial process, being opposed now by two recently appointed barristers, we can now see that other jurisdictions are catching up with developments in the media world.

In a court in Florida, in a similar case to my own, the court has found that a blogger and their blog can be and are considered to be media, and as a result can be considered a legitimate media property.

A few years ago, we¬†wrote about¬†the bizarre and quixotic effort by Florida businessman Christopher Comins to find any possible way to sue University of Florida student and blogger Matthew Frederick VanVoorhis for¬†his blog post¬†concerning a widely publicized event in which Comins¬†shot two dogs¬†in a field (video link). The story made lots of news at the time, but Comins didn’t go after any of the major media — instead targeting VanVoorhis for a defamation suit. The original blog post is “novelistic” but it’s difficult to see how it’s defamatory. Either way, Comins’ case was¬†shot down¬†on fairly specific procedural grounds: namely that Florida defamation law requires specific notice be given to media properties at least 5 days before a lawsuit is launched. Specifically, the law says:

Before any civil action is brought for publication or broadcast, in a newspaper, periodical, or other medium, of a libel or slander, the plaintiff shall, at least 5 days before instituting such action, serve notice in writing on the defendant, specifying the article or broadcast and the statements therein which he or she alleges to be false and defamatory.

Comins’ lawsuit was dumped because he failed to give such notice. Comins argues that he did give such a notice (though the letter he sent did not meet the requirements of such notice under the law) and (more importantly for this discussion) that VanVoorhis’ blog did not count as a media publication, and thus the law did not apply. The original court ruling rejected that pretty quickly, and now on appeal, a state appeals court has¬†not just rejected Comins’ anti-blog claim more thoroughly, but also highlighted¬†the importance of blogs to our media landscape. ¬† Read more »

An outing at the High Court

Yesterday I spent the morning at the High Court.

I was all set to argue the point about my media status and all of a sudden things got a little strange.

Not to worry a new date has been set and the Judge is seeking counsel to assist. I am ok with the proceedings as they were today.

A Queen’s counsel will be asked to weigh in on Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater’s appeal over whether he is part of the media.

Slater’s appeal was adjourned today in the High Court in Auckland with Justice Raynor Asher saying the issue was “quite important”. It would require an interpretation of an aspect of Section 68 of the Evidence Act for the first time.

Slater and businessman Matthew Blomfield are representing themselves.

The judge said he wanted a defamation expert appointed as amicus curiae – an adviser to the court – to research the law and give him an impartial view before he made his decision.¬† Read more »

So, I’m a journalist now

Cameron Slater went to the High Court last Thursday to overcome the next legal hurdle in the defamation case taken out against him by Mr Matt Blomfield.

For those of you late to the story, Whaleoil was given access to information about Mr Blomfield’s business dealings regarding Hell Pizza. ¬†Due to a series of events, allegedly supported by Mr Blomfield’s own documents (allegedly, because we’re still subject to legal action), some of Mr Blomfield’s business dealings ¬†were reported on, especially those surrounding Hell Pizza and Hell Pizza sponsorship.

Mr Blomfield took exception to having his business emails published and took Cameron Slater to court for defamation. ¬†Part of this process is that all the articles about Mr Blomfield on¬†Whaleoil have been removed from public view, and we are under a suppression order from the Court that stops us from revealing any new information about Mr Blomfield – anything that isn’t already out in the public domain.

As part of that legal tussle, Mr Blomfield wanted to know who provided Cam Slater with access to the emails and documentation. ¬†Whaleoil doesn’t reveal sources. ¬†We never have and we never will, so Slater respectfully told the judge he couldn’t do that, and invoked protections under the law allowing journalists not to be compelled to reveal their sources by a Court.

The next legal step was therefore obvious to Mr Blomfield: ¬†insist that Cameron Slater isn’t a journalist, and Whaleoil isn’t part of the media.

A District Court judge found in Mr Blomfield’s favour, and insisted Cameron Slater reveal his sources. ¬†Again, this was resisted, even though Cam Slater was now clearly in contempt of court. ¬† Read more »

Who is managing Labour’s social media campaign?

Settle down children, I’m about to tell you a story!

Let’s say a political leader, let’s call him Conservative Party leader Colin Craig, says that a woman’s place is in the home. ¬†And to make this more fun, another political leaders, let’s call him Green party co-leader Russel Norman, refers to this in a allegedly derogatory sense in a speech.

Now, Colin doesn’t like it and decides to sue Russel for defamation.

This is all over the media, and it looks like a mess.  The whole concept of women belonging in the home is somewhat ridiculous to most voters.

Apparently, neither Colin nor Russel think the Woman’s place is in the house, but they are going to court to fight over it anyway. ¬†The proper place for a woman is a hot political issue in 2014.

Meanwhile, in a political party, far, far, faaaar, away, some social media genius is thinking: “How shall I make an impact in this election?”

“Oh, I know!” Read more »

Using defamation to stifle free speech

Michael Tracinski has a great article about the current Mann vs Steyn defamation action being used by Michael Man in an attempt to shut down criticism.

I was reminded of this in coming across a little sidelight to Mann vs. Steyn, the defamation lawsuit filed by scientist-turned-activist Michael Mann in an attempt to suppress the speech of global warming skeptics, starting with conservative writer Mark Steyn.

As I have explained¬†elsewhere¬†Mann is attempting to legally punish any attempt to “question his intellect and reasoning”‚ÄĒthat’s from the DC Superior Court, which preposterously backed his argument‚ÄĒon the grounds that Mann’s scientific claims have been investigated by multiple government panels, which have exonerated him.

This claim, by the way, is already falling apart. As Steven McIntyre¬†explains, one of the examples Mann cites is a British panel that did not actually investigate Mann‚ÄĒits focus was on the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, the epicenter of “Climategate”‚ÄĒand in its announcement of its results criticized Mann’s methods as “inappropriate” and his results as “exaggerated.” At the time, Mann felt so exonerated that he sent harassing e-mails to the scientist who made that remark, demanding a retraction and an apology. Mann then went on to tell the BBC that such a retraction was forthcoming. It wasn’t. All of which tells you a great deal about Professor Mann’s credibility.

But that’s not the main issue. The main issue in the suit is Mann’s appeal to authority in the first place. He cites the various government investigations as reasons why, as the DC Superior Court put it, “to question [Mann's] intellect and reasoning is tantamount to a [libelous] accusation of fraud.” Mann’s goal is to make it a legally punishable offense to question a scientist’s honesty or even his thinking method.¬† Read more »

High Court accepts application for appeal, meanwhile Human Wrongs Commission decides to prosecute me

The High Court has accepted my application to appeal Judge Blackie’s ¬†decision in the District court that my website is not a news medium nor am I by extension a journalist.

The hearing day will be February 11, 2014.

In the meantime I have today received notice that the Director of Human Rights Proceedings will be prosecuting me for apparently breaching Mr Blomfield’s privacy.

They too claim I and my website are not a news medium. ¬† Read more »

Ambrose to sue PM for defamation

Bradley Ambrose the ratbag who recorded the conversation between John Key and John Banks secretly is attempting to sue the PM for defamation.

The Herald reports:

Bradley Ambrose, the freelance cameraman who recorded the so called “teapot tapes” conversation between Prime Minister John Key and Act’s John Banks is taking defamation action against Mr Key.

Mr Key acknowledged the court action today while speaking to reporters in Hamilton.

“We’ve been aware for some time now that he’s likely to file proceedings for defamation and we’ll be defending that action.

“I’m not really going to go into any great comments about it. It’s a matter that’s before the courts so we’ll just leave it there.”¬† Read more »

Herald Editorial on my appeal

The editorial in the NZ Herald today lends its support to my appeal.

Blogger Cameron Slater has been told by a Manukau District Court judge his “Whaleoil” website is not a news medium. This will surprise everybody aware of the Len Brown affair. Whaleoil broke that story and was almost alone among news media in covering the seamy details. Muckraking to that degree might not be to everyone’s taste but if anybody wants to rake it or read it, they have a right to do so. The ruling by District Court Judge Charles Blackie will not stop them but it denies Whaleoil a right asserted by all news media to protect their sources from discovery in court.

The case has nothing to do with the Brown affair. Slater is defending an action for defamation on a different subject. The judge’s ruling is important for its general application to news and comment online, and possibly for the future regulation of mainstream media too.

Judge Blackie has decided the website does not come within the definition of a news medium in the Evidence Act 2006: “a medium for the dissemination to the public or a section of the public of news and observations on news”.

He appears to regard a blog as a private and personal indulgence. He quotes a passage in the Law Commission’s 2011 report on media regulation that said, “blog sites are not democratic forums”, they were “often highly partisan” and “can be highly offensive and personally abusive”. ¬† Read more »

Another lefty joins the fight

Pablo at Kiwipolitico, another left wing voice adds to the debate over whether or not I am a “journalist” and my site is a “news medium”.

The left and right seem united on this apart from a  few ill-informed toxic lefties.

The decision by a district court judge to deny a rightwing blogger the right to protect his sources because he is not a ‚Äúnews medium‚ÄĚ under the definition of the Evidence Act has been greeted with glee by many on the Left but is utterly wrong. The judge clearly does not understand what blogging has become, and has failed to distinguish between freedom of the press and defamation.

There are many types of blogging, and some of it is clearly news-focused in nature. The Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Foreign Policy blog and many others of that type are news outlets, sometimes with editorial content. Blogs like The Onion are clearly satirical and should be treated as such. Blogs like David Farrar‚Äôs are personal, partisan and cut and paste editorial in nature. Blogs like this one are personal and opinion focused, not news breaking. There are tons of personal, music, cinema, food and other types of blog that are not news mediums but it should be obvious that there are also many news-breaking and news focused blogs that fall well within the definition of ‚Äúnews medium.‚ÄĚ

Blogs that are news focused can have a heavy editorial or partisan content. When evaluating stories on such outlets one has to distinguish whether the author wrote in a news breaking capacity or as an editorial or partisan opinion. That really is not that hard. ¬†¬† Read more »

Oh look I’m making the news again, HoS only tells half the story

Before we get started on this article I need to post this portion of the directive from Judge Blackie of  1 October 2012.

Blackie

I have to post this because Matthew Blomfield is vexatious and runs off to court at the drop of a hat. The reason I have not written about Blomfield for months despite building evidence against him flooding into my tipline is because Judge Blackie essentially forbade me speaking of him unless he was otherwise reported in “old” media.

This morning that happened. Therefore I am able to comment on him and since the story manufactured by Bevan Hurley is about the case I can talk about that too.

Unlike the Herald on Sunday I’ll tell the whole story not just the bits that suit Matthew Blomfield.

You may ask why I said ‘to suit Matthew Blomfield’…well because Bevan Hurley never spoke to me or even called me prior to publishing this story. He also didn’t disclose that he met Matthew Blomfield and sat having a coffee with him at the concession stand at the Manukau District Court on Monday for 20 minutes prior to the case being heard. He also didn’t disclose that he left with Matthew Blomfield as well and never spoke with me after court. We can be assured that Bevan Hurley wrote this story on behalf of Matthew Blomfield as he always does. I have email correspondence that proves that Matthew Blomfield and Bevan Hurley have worked on stories before. I will present that in my defence against Blomfield’s spurious claims of defamation.

Right now to fisk the article (No link because they don’t deserve one)

A blogger who broke the Len Brown sex scandal story has been ordered to reveal confidential sources after a judge ruled his site was not a “news medium”.

The landmark ruling was made in a defamation case against Cameron Slater, founder of the Whale Oil site, who is being sued by Auckland businessman Matthew Blomfield. ¬† Read more »