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 »