Judge: Comments are protected speech

By William R. Toler

If you comment on this or any other blog or news Web site, have no fear. Your comments are protected by the First Amendment.

The Gaston Gazette reported earlier this week that a Superior Court judge in Gaston County rejected a request that would have been able to indentify an annonymous commenter on The Gazette’s site who had disclosed unreleased information in a murder case.

John Bussian, an attorney representing the Gastonia-based newspaper, said the judge’s decision recognized that “media can’t be forced to disclose information about how they manage comments on news reports posted to their websites.” Bussian added that while other states have made similar rulings, this was the first time in North Carolina. “It’s a landmark ruling,” he said.

Attorneys for the defendant argued that a commenter was not a journalist and shouldn’t be covered under the state’s shield law and that the comment section was “more of a social network than a news gathering operation.”

According to N.C.’s shield law the Web site would be considered a news medium which is “Any entity regularly engaged in the business of publication or distribution of news via print, broadcast, or other electronic means accessible to the general public.”

But the Judge Calvin Murphy sided with The Gazette and the First Amendment.

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0 Responses to Judge: Comments are protected speech

  1. RICHARD

    A judge with his head out of his A__. That is a real surprise.

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