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Slater Loses Battle - Wins War!

The High Court case in which Cam Slater (Whaleoil) attempted to protect his sources was handed down today and as expected, he was required to disclose - Justice Asher stated in essence that in this particular case s 68(1) giving protection to journalists did not apply because it was not a 'whistle-blower' case, and the information published against Blomfield was clearly obtained illegally and was used to "drive a vendetta."

Slater would have been dismayed at this conclusion, but not by what followed. I will publish this in full because it is quite important:  

[140] The definition of a journalist in s 68(1) of the Evidence Act 2006 can include a blogger. The definition does not impose quality requirements and does not require the dissemination of news to be in a particular format. The focus is on the medium disseminating new or recent information of public interest.

[141] The relevant time for assessing whether s 68(1) applied to Mr Slater and the Whale Oil website was the time when the sources made their disclosures which resulted in the publications at issue.

[142] The Whale Oil website was a news medium in that it was disseminating new and recent stories of public interest. While its style and focus can be criticised, it was breaking news to a significant section of the New Zealand public.

[143] Whale Oil was published with a significant degree of regularity, and required a sufficient degree of work and effort for it to be in the normal course of Mr Slater’s work for him to receive information from informants for publication.

[144] Mr Slater promised to protect his sources

Regardless of the totally self-interested and slanted report by-lined Hamish Fletcher that appeared late today on the front page of the NZH, it is clarification of the status of bloggers that was the primary decision awaited by all those who are involved in the operation of blogs, including myself.

Naturally, I feel a little sorry for Cam who has copped so much flak - some deserved, but most born out of ignorance (and stolen property!) over the last month - this is an additional blow both personally and financially as he will surely be fitted with the majority of the costs. But he in particular will understand the logic of Justice Asher closing in on the illegal nature of the material he used back in 2011 that formed the basis of the Blomfield claim, and surely accept it as the price for the clarification of the status of bloggers - sorry Cam!

What is of even greater importance is that the decision in no way provides comfort for Nicky Hager. Based on Asher's decision and definition, Hager is a writer - not a blogger, and he has none of the protections now allowed bloggers by Asher. He will undoubtedly and in due course also have to provide the sources of the illegal material which formed the basis of his nasty little tome. Such is the manner in which the slow wheels of justice grind.

Expect a series of appeals as both matters are tested through the courts, but based on a reading of the full decision, I cannot see much chance of the decision being overturned.

News media - both print and air, have had a field-day over the last month as they have attempted to 'bury' blogging, and by inference bloggers. Likewise politicians and those whose actions have come under unwelcome scrutiny have joined in the melee with gusto and malevolence.

The decision brings back some balance, and will knock the over-inflated egos of so-called 'qualified journalists.' The utter rubbish that those responsible for the sub-standard biased reporting, and pontificating columnists that we have become used to in this new age of diminishing readership and listeners will take no comfort from this.  




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