For Americans the idea of using any and all means to spread ideas is second nature.
The First Amendment of the US Constitution put in writing what had become common place in first the 13 colonies and then the United States. The protection given to freedom of speech and press has expanded as technology changed.
“Press” no longer means just a printed document. It has come to mean any method of communicating thoughts and ideas.
And so blogging and Tweeting are fully protected in the United States.
In other countries, not so much.
Now Article 19 has come out with a document that talks about how press freedom issues have evolved in the age of the Internet.
In this policy paper, ARTICLE 19 proposes a set of recommendations to state actors and policy makers about what they should do to promote and protect the rights of bloggers domestically and internationally. It also gives practical advice to bloggers about their rights and explains how – and in what situations – they can invoke some of the privileges and defences that traditional journalists have found vital to the integrity of their work.
In common with many other aspects of modern life, the Internet has transformed the way in which we communicate with one another. Where the printed press and broadcast media were once the main sources of information, the Internet has made it possible for any person to publish ideas, information and opinions to the entire world. In particular, blogging and social media now rival newspapers and television as dominant sources of news and information. Unsurprisingly, these developments have also called into question the very definition of ‘journalism’ and ‘media’ in the digital age. It has also raised difficult questions of how the activities of bloggers and ‘citizen journalists’ can be reconciled to existing models of media regulation.
ARTICLE 19 argues that it is no longer appropriate to define journalism and journalists by reference to some recognised body of training, or affiliation with a news entity or professional body. On the contrary, ARTICLE 19 believes that the definition of journalism should be functional, i.e. journalism is an activity that can be exercised by anyone. Accordingly, it argues that international human rights law must protect bloggers just as it protects journalists. The policy paper therefore addresses the key areas that bloggers are likely to face, that is: licensing, real-name registration (vs. anonymity), accreditation, the protection of sources, protection from violence, legal liability and ethical responsibility and suggests ways for them to be addressed.
Among the key recommendations to governments about bloggers are:
- Legal standards should reflect the fact that anyone who disseminated information or ideas to the public by any means of communication is a journalist.
Bloggers, like journalists, should never be required to obtain a licence to blog.
Bloggers, like journalists, should never be required to register with a government entity.