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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bloggers, CItizen Activists Ruled Protected By Journalists' Shield Law

In a pro-whistleblower decision, a New Jersey trial court Friday ruled that citizen activists, citizen journalists or bloggers who obtain information for the purpose of disseminating it on the Internet (or other medium) are covered just like "real journalists" by the same shield laws protecting confidential sources from disclosure to law enforcement or grand juries.

(The formal opinion is not yet available and I will update this article with a link when it becomes available.)

This decision is, in my opinion, likely to be appealed by the Union County Prosecutor's Office and/or the State of New Jersey.  The reasons are obvious. This secrecy may hurt official investigations and remove an avenue for the authorities to pressure these activists to reveal people whose information may be helpful in investigations.  But there is a flip side and a positive one at that. Citizen activists can now report and investigate while keeping sources confidential, and those sources can now reveal information while keeping their identity secret. Such secrecy will encourage the reporting of wrongdoing.  This benefit should and will, in my opinion, outweigh the inconvenience to the authorities.

From the private citizen's standpoint, being an activist, citizen reporter or whistleblower became much easier in New Jersey.  

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