Recently in winter 2002 Category

Spring Silha Forum Will Feature MSNBC.com Ombudsman

The Spring Silha Forum, scheduled for April 10, 2002, will feature MSNBC.com ombudsman Dan Fisher. In his presentation entitled, "Ombudsmanship in the Digital Age: Life as the Peanut Butter in a Cyber Sandwich," Fisher will discuss his work as a combination readers' representative and internal critic of journalism for MSNBC.com, a news web site that is a joint venture of NBC and Microsoft, combining MSNBC TV and MSNBC on the Internet. The web site integrates television with interactive news and offers its users the opportunity to join in the kind of conversations normally found on talk radio. In addition to his work as ombudsman and critic for the web site, Fisher writes a twice-monthly column and responds directly to users' concerns by e-mail.

By Elaine Hargrove-Simon

The Silha Center's Fall 2001 Forum, entitled "The Constitution, Criminal Investigations and Digital Media," was timely following the events of September 11, 2001 and the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act. Forum speakers Stephen Cribari and Dick Reeve addressed privacy and the ways government can glean information about individuals and their activities from their computers.

Tape Confiscated from Maplewood Journalists

By Bastiaan Vanacker

On October 26, 2001, the federal District Court in Minnesota rejected two Minnesota journalists' lawsuits against the City of Maplewood and four police officers for ejecting them from a community banquet and confiscating their tape of the event on December 28, 1999.

Minnesota Shield Law Facing Test

By Elaine Hargrove-Simon

Wally Wakefield, a Minnesota reporter, has been ordered by Ramsey County District Court Judge Dale B. Lindman to pay a $200 per day fine for refusing to identify confidential sources he used in a story he wrote five years ago. Wakefield's article concerned the firing of Tartan High School's football coach, Richard Weinberger, after Weinberger was accused of misconduct, including maltreatment of the team's players. Wakefield's article in the Maplewood Review contained several statements from unnamed school officials who claimed that Weinberger had intimidated the players.

By Bastiaan Vanacker

A French court's order seeking to force Yahoo! to either prevent its French users from viewing Nazi memorabilia or pay a fine of $13,000 a day is not enforceable in theUnited States, a federal judge in San Jose, CA ruled on November 7, 2001 (Yahoo! Inc. v. La Ligue Contre Le Racisme et L'Antisemetisme, 169 F. Supp. 2d 1181 (N.D. Cal. 2001). During 2000, the California-based company became entangled in a legal dispute with two French anti-racism groups over Nazi merchandise being auctioned by Yahoo! users. Despite the fact that the Yahoo! auction sites are hosted by servers located in the United States, a French judge ordered Yahoo! to block access to French users to the site or pay a hefty fine (

Internet Speech Threatened by Global Standards

By Elaine Hargrove-Simon

Potential restrictions on Internet news services were averted at UNESCO's General Conference that took place October 15 - November 3, 2001. At the center of the conference discussion was UNESCO's proposal that was slated to be presented at the World Communication Summit on the Information Society in December 2003, "Recommendation of the Promotion and Use of Multi-lingualism and Universal Access to Cyberspace." The proposal could significantly affect the use and content of news on the Internet.

Vanessa Leggett Released from Jail

By Bastiaan Vanacker

On January 4, 2002, aspiring writer Vanessa Leggett was freed after serving 168 days in the Federal Detention Center in Houston, Texas. Leggett had been jailed on contempt charges for refusing to testify and hand over her research on a 1997 Houston murder case to a grand jury. She contended that doing so would have revealed the identity of some sources who talked to her on the condition of anonymity (see Fall 2001 Bulletin). Leggett was set free because the term of the grand jury had expired. Previous attempts by her attorney Mike DeGeurin to obtain her release on bond had been unsuccessful.

Book on Torture Leads to Fines for French General

By Bastiaan Vanacker

Should all political speech be protected, even if it is used to justify the unjustifiable? In the United States, courts tend to answer this question in the affirmative, but in many other western countries, courts and governments limit freedom of expression when it is used to propagate unpopular ideas. A recent court case in France illustrates this alternative approach to freedom of speech.

Autopsy Records Laws Restricting Access

By Elaine Hargrove-Simon

A year after his death in the Daytona 500, the battle over the access to Dale Earnhardt's autopsy photos continues. (See Summer 2001 Silha Bulletin, "New Florida Law Closes Door on Autopsy Photos.") In a story dated January 10, the Associated Press reported that the newly enacted Florida law is hurting medical examiners and could hinder criminal investigations. As currently written, the law makes it a felony punishable by five years in prison and a $5,000 fine to view or copy autopsy photos without a court order. The law is being challenged by the Orlando Sentinel, the Gainesville Sun, the Ledger, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, four newspapers owned by The New York Times Co., and the Tampa Tribune, together with its affiliate, WFLA-TV. A separate but related lawsuit is being fought by the University of Florida Alligator. The case has been set for arguments March 5 before Broward Circuit Judge Leroy Moe.

Digital Editing Company Creates Ethics Guidelines

By Bastiaan Vanacker

DigitalCustom, a production company in the business of custom editing digital photographs and still images, sponsored the first version (release version #1.0) of ethics guidelines for editing digital images on February 24, 2002. The guidelines reflect comments DigitalCustom received from its users and Web site visitors over the past year. The code is designed to help news, travel and nature editors apply ethical standards when editing digital images. Altering images in the darkroom has been part of photography since its inception, but digital technology has greatly increased the ease and possibilities of changing digital images. Guidelines like these aid editors in maintaining high standards of truth and accuracy while at the same time utilizing the full potential offered by digital technology.

Appeals Court Rules Ban on Hyperlinks Constitutional

By Elaine Hargrove-Simon

On November 28, 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously ruled in Universal City Studios v. Corley (273 F.3d 429 (2001)) that an injunction prohibiting web sites from publishing hyperlinks to another site which contains information on how to unlawfully copy DVDs and other digital material is constitutional.

Cameras Banned At Trial of Alleged Terrorist

By Elaine Hargrove-Simon

Even though alleged terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui has himself requested cameras at his conspiracy trial, U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema (E.D. Va.) on January 18, 2002 denied the motion of the Courtroom Television Network (Court TV) to broadcast the pretrial and trial proceedings. Brinkema cited both federal and local rules (see Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 53, and Local Rule 83.2 (a)) as grounds for her ruling. Both rules prohibit taking photographs in or transmitting radio and television broadcasts from the federal criminal courtrooms.

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