Media Attorneys Argue About Anonymous Comments

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Here we go.

Does the First Amendment apply to anonymous posters on commercial media Web sites?

Do the journalistic principles employed by professional journalists apply to bloggers?

Does a judge have the right to dictate a news organization’s Web policies?

It doesn’t sound like fodder for courtroom debate in a capital murder case, but those arguments and more are being bandied about in Knox County Criminal Court today as attorneys for four suspects in a fatal carjacking launched an attack on anonymous commentary allowed on local media Web sites.

Frank Gibson of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and Jack McElroy, who is the editor for the Knoxville News Sentinel commented on this case.

“With comments being posted at the rate of more than one a minute, (controlling comments) can be a challenge,” McElroy said. “But we firmly believe that a vigorous Internet forum is an important component of civic dialogue in this digital age, and we strongly oppose any efforts by the government to ban this type of free expression.”

Frank Gibson, who heads the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, agreed.

“It sounds like an unconstitutional infringement on free speech and the press’s right to publish,” Gibson said. “If the purpose is to keep jurors from seeing those comments, the courts have any number of ways to prevent that without shutting down public dialogue.”

Knox News has the story regarding anonymous comments on media sites. We will watch this to see how it plays out. The case comes from the torture slaying of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom which occurred in 2007.

H/T Silence

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