Sunday, August 23, 2009

Another blogger in the US goes to jail

Blogger sued by Anna Nicole's mom sent to jail


Aug. 22, 2009, 9:34AM

A second blogger being sued by the mother of the late Anna Nicole Smith is set to spend a weekend behind bars for failing to do what a local judge asked.

Teresa Stephens, accused in a civil lawsuit of defaming Smith's mother, was arrested Thursday in the Fort Worth area and is due in Harris County court Monday morning.

A judge will ask Stephens, whose blogging name is Butterfly according to the lawsuit, to show why she should not be found in contempt for failing to follow court orders to turn over her computer and to appear in court to explain why she didn't do so.

Neil McCabe, attorney for Virgie Arthur, said his client was defamed by these bloggers and others, but that the jailings aren't about blogging.

“This is because a couple of people have defied court orders,” McCabe said. “The case is not really about people blogging. It's about people ginning up a couple stories and getting them in the mainstream media.

McCabe said the gossip was vicious and it was around the time of custody hearings for Smith's infant daughter, Dannielynn, who could inherit an $88 million fortune. Smith died in 2007.

Arthur also sued lawyer Howard K. Stern; Stern's sister; Dannielynn's father, Larry Birkhead; TMZ Productions Inc.; TMZ's Harvey Levin; and others.

Similar cases

In May, Lyndal Harrington, a local real estate agent and blogger, was jailed for contempt of court by state District Judge Tony Lindsay, the same judge Stephens will face. In Harrington's case, the judge did not believe Harrington lost her computer in a home burglary.

Lindsay released Harrington after she spent a holiday weekend in the Harris County Jail. Harrington, who has said she has no computer to turn over, could risk further sanctions.

Stephens and Harrington are both accused of moderating defamatory discussions about Arthur on a Web site called Rose Speaks.

And both Stephens and Harrington have denied they defamed or harmed Arthur.

Earlier this month, Lindsay issued an order to have Stephens arrested and brought to court. Lindsay allowed for a $3,000 bond, conditioned on Stephens bringing her computer to court.

Stephens does not have a lawyer and has tried to appeal Lindsay's ruling without success yet.

It is highly unusual for a judge to use civil laws to place someone, especially a non-lawyer, in jail.

Groups that monitor Internet law say bloggers are increasingly being sued for defamation, copyright infringement and privacy invasion. One group offers insurance against these lawsuits.

Dave Heller, of the New York City-based Media Law Resource Center, said many bloggers are surprised to be sued “for the loose, hyperbolic language often used in private speech that they post on a public platform.”

Arthur's case is scheduled for trial in 2010.

To see original article, click here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Media Under Najib

  • Freedom or doom? The title of this blogpost, The media under Najib, is also the title of the article I wrote for Oon Yeoh in his latest book, Najib's 100 Days, launched last Thursday at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in KL. The book is a collection of 14 essays by Zaid Ibrahim, Kee Thuan Chye, and Malik Imtiaz, among others.Tunku Aziz, who founded Transparency International before jumping on the political bandwagon in the wake of the March 2008 general election, launched the book.
  • "I don't think much of Najib," the Senator from DAP said, thus setting the tone for the panel discussion that followed the launch. The panelists were V. Gayatry, Chin Huat, Tricia Yeoh, Ibrahim Sufian, Bridget Welsh and I (who all wrote for the book) and YB Jeff Ooi (who did not contribute any article because Oon Yeoh hadn't wanted any elected people's rep to be involved). Compared with the other panelists, as one member of the audience pointed out, I sounded the most optimistic about prospects under Najib's premiership.
  • Guilty as charged.
  • Each panelist was given 10 minutes to say his/her piece. I attempted to compare Najib not just with the two other PMs I've dealt with in my 25 years as a journalist - Dr M and Pak Lah - but also with the deputy prime ministers since 1981 - Musa Hitam, Ghafar Baba, Anwar Ibrahim and Muhyidin Yasin.
  • Under Anwar Ibrahim, for example, the media tzars were his (instead of Dr Mahathir's) loyalists (with the exception, perhaps, of A. Kadir Jasin, who was linked more to Daim Zainuddin, probably the only non-PM/DPM who'd enjoyed a tight grip of the media). Under Anwar's watch, too, several top editors of Umno-owned media groups and their executives became very rich as a result of multi-billion ringgit corporate moves.
  • I told the audience that if Dr Mahathir had entrusted his deputies to take care of the media, it wasn't the case with Pak Lah, who left the running of the media entirely to a couple of individuals and the 4th Floor. During his first 100 days, Pak Lah had sacked the Group Editor-in-chief of the New Straits Times Press and replaced him with a close friend.
  • The media"scape" under Najib has changed tremendously from the 80s and 90s. When Dr M was PM, there was only the "old" media. When Pak Lah took over, he rejected the "new" media. Najib has to give latitude to both old and new media.
  • I pointed out that there is almost absolute Press Freedom as far as the New Media is concerned, as Najib understands the concept (Gayathry disagreed, she said Press Freedom should be measured in totality: old and new media)
  • Najib's statement a week or so ago to assure us that the Government will not censor the Internet (he was responding to Rais Yatim's statement that the ministry was considering a filter to check cyber porn) is proof that the PM is going to honor Dr M's promise to the world that Malaysia would not ever censor the Internet (Tricia, however, thought that it was all staged, that Rais and Najib were playing the good cop, bad cop game).
  • I said I was confident that under Najib's watch we witness the abolition of such archaic regulations as the PPPA, which among other things requires newspapers to renew their publishing licences annually.
  • Najib had better do that because if Tunku Aziz's prophecy plays out (he had said that Najib could be the last Umno PM of Malaysia), the media will be worse off under the next Government, I said.
  • Why?
  • Just look at DAP's Penang, where the mainstream media are barred from covering official functions. Under the current Anwar Ibrahim, suing the media has become a norm. The latest is his RM100 million suit he filed against Utusan.
By the way, Oon Yeoh, by the way, gave the PM a B+ for his first 100 days. Read the book review by The Malay Mail here.