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General News    H2'ed 12/9/11

U.S. District Court Judge Pretends He Can Define What a Journalist Is

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A federal judge in Oregon has ruled that only the gatekeepers in the mainstream media are to be recognized as journalists, and that bloggers are not entitled to protection under Oregon's shield law.

A shield law is a law which gives reporters protection against being forced to share confidential info, or their sources, in a state court.

The case is regarding a Montana woman-- Crystal L. Cox-- who is being sued for defamation by a lawyer-- Kevin Padrick--  for claiming online that he acted criminally during a bankruptcy case.

Judge Marco Hernandez ruled that Padrick is not a public figure, and that the bankruptcy case is not in the public interest.  He also said that the shield law does not apply to civil actions for defamation . As well, he found that Cox is not protected by Oregon's shield law because she is not a journalist, since she is not affiliated with any "recognized news outlet".

From the AP's report:

"Hernandez said Cox was not a journalist because she offered no professional qualifications as a journalist or legitimate news outlet. She had no journalism education, credentials or affiliation with a recognized news outlet, proof of adhering to journalistic standards such as editing or checking her facts, evidence she produced an independent product or evidence she ever tried to get both sides of the story."

Since there is no concrete definition of what a journalist is and no  degree required to become one, Hernandez's ruling is based more on personal opinion than any legal standard and is a dangerous attack on on the First Amendment.  It means that one must prostitute themselves to the bought off corporate media machines and put themselves in debt to universities (thus being shackled by censorship and pressure to not rock the boat) in order to be considered a journalist in the eyes of the law...or rather Judge Marco Hernandez's twisted view of it.  What makes Hernandez's ruling even more ridiculous is that the so-called "mainstream" media itself doesn't even try to follow the standards he has cited.   Time and again Fox News, MSNBC and other cable news networks have been caught manipulating their coverage of events in order to steer the public towards certain agendas.  Years worth of lies and distortions from the professionals have fueled the rise of citizen journalists who protect what's left of freedom in America while the worthless lapdogs whom Hernandez is so quick to exalt as real journalists have long ago sold out their credibility, manipulating their audiences in a cruel attempt to make America happily embrace its own destruction.

Hernandez's ruling must be overturned, not in order to boost the relevance of bloggers, but in order to boost the relevance of judges, now diminished in the eyes of the public because of those among them like Hernandez who make ridiculous rulings not based on the U.S. Constitution but on the desire to protect a system of social control that is rotting out from the inside.  Indeed, a judge banging his gavel after making such a proclamation carries as much weight in the real world of will and true power as Hitler banging his fist on a table and vowing revenge from his bunker while his enemies invade Berlin.  Free people are not subject to the mandates of tyrants, and they need not scramble to meet the standards of fools who claim to speak for a law that has already been trampled on by those sworn to protect it.   Tyranny pushed far enough results only in a populace recognizing that black robes and blue uniforms, and men in suits reading scripts on TV,  are merely actors playing a part in a show in which the director is whoever exerts the most will, and that their mandates can be overturned if enough people respond to them with simple noncompliance.

Any attempt by the legal system to define what a journalist is is an attempt to erase the freedom of America's press (it's real press), which is protected by the First Amendment.  Since the First Amendment is a basic right, not given by the government but simply by the fact that men and women are born free, it is impossible to erase it.  This means that Hernandez's  ruling is an act of violence against Cox, and against the people of the United States, whose collective freedom depends on the rights of individuals and on society's ability to guard an individual's rights from attack, whether it be from other citizens, lawmakers, or overreaching judges.


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Andrew Steele is the editor of America 20xy-- an independent news service that highlights articles from around the web focusing on international and economic policy, and human rights abuses. The mission statement for the page is a quote from Thomas (more...)
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