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Jailed Blogger, Article Review Example

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Article Review

First Amendment Issues in Recent Article on Jailed Blogger

A recent article in the New York Times, “Blogger’s Incarceration Raises First Amendment Issues” concerns Robert Shuler whose blog, Legal Schnauzer, deals with issues of corruption in state and local politics.  Shuler was sued for defamation in a suit filed by the son of the governor, though  issues in this case including the judge’s restraining order and the manner in which papers were served has led some free speech advocates to uphold that there has been “a clear violation of Mr. Shuler’s First Amendment rights” (Campbell 1).  At his hearing, the judge ruled against Shuler and has ordered him to remove the posts in question from his blog or remain in jail; to date, Shuler remains incarcerated.

Reflections on article

There are several defenses that Shuler could maintain in this case which do have legal precedent. The first involves the status of bloggers in regards to First Amendment rights.  In a recent case, similar to this one, Crystal Cox, a blogger, lost a defamation suit brought against her by Obsidian Financial Group, the court ruling against Cox largely on the question of her status as a journalist.  However, an appeals court overturned that ruling and found that “bloggers have the same free speech protection as traditional journalists” (Levine 1) and that Cox could not be held liable unless it was found that she acted negligently.

Another precedent is the balance that has been struck between defamation and freedom of speech.  The Center for First Amendment Studies notes that the Court has made exceptions to the free speech rule but goes on to say that “the rationale for giving greater protection to political speech is clear…without information, members of society cannot make informed choices, which is the hallmark of democracy” (Center for First Amendment Studies 4).  They go on to cite the decision of overturn New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), finding that the common law presumption of defamatory statement’s falsity was unconstitutional. (Center for First Amendment Studies 4).

Conclusion

The controversies involving the First Amendment and freedom of speech are as old as the Constitution itself. The case involving Robert Shuler is just one example of the many ways in which we, as a society, have to revisit the First Amendment and try to understand how it fits into our country as it now is.

Works Cited

“Libel, Slander, and Freedom of Speech”.  Center for First Amendment Studies.  2013. Web. 4 April 2014.

Levine, D. “Bloggers Get Same Speech Protections as Traditional Press: U.S. Court”. Reuters Online.  2014. Web. 4 April 2014.

Robertson, C.  “Blogger’s Incarceration Raises First Amendment Questions”. New York Times Online.  2014.  Web. 4 April 2014.

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