Online reporting banned

I’ve just been interviewed by Radio NZ on the ruling by Judge Harvey that media are allowed to report the names of two murder accused, but that online media can not. The interview should be on Morning Report tomorrow.

Now is not some fuddy duddy Judge who does not understand the Internet. He is in fact probably the most tech-savvy Judge we have, and he is the author of the main textbook on Internet law in NZ. I actually first met the Judge many years ago through Usenet, the Internet newsgroups.

Judge Harvey seems to be trying to do a middle course between total name supression and no name supression. It is an interesting concept, but one that does raise significant issues.

As far as I can tell he is not worried if potential jurors hear the name on the news tonight or in the newspaper tomorrow, but doesn’t want them to be able to Google the name (and I have just done Google searches on their names) once the trial starts. The issue of jurors doing research on defendeants on Google is a growing problem.

However by banning the names online, this may lead to overseas blogs reporting the names deliberately. In fact overseas newspapers may also do so, as this ruling may be one of the first in the world – to apply only to Internet media.

It also gives local media a challenge. It is pretty obvious the NZ Herald has to remove the name from its web version of its stories. And TVNZ and Radio NZ can not have the names in their web stories. But does TVNZ and Radio NZ etc have to remove the names from the digital version of their audio and video files? They will not be picked up in Google, but are online. Also are there issues with live streaming of their broadcasts?

Blogs may have some issues also, as commenters may have mentioned the names of accussed, but the blog owner may not be aware those names are the names that have been supressed. Oh it goes without saying I will be unimpressed if anyone mentions their names on this blog.

I hear various media are looking to appeal the decision. It is certainly going to be fascinating either way for those of us interested in technology and media law.

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