On Monday, a very important bill will get a hearing before the Texas House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee -- at least it's important if you are a blogger who writes about politics and items of public concern. That's because the bill (HB4237 by Rep. Aaron Pena) would give bloggers and citizen journalists the same protection against being sued for libel that mainstream media has.
Here's how Vince of Capitol Annex describes the bill:
"This bill gives bloggers and citizen journalists the same protections that the mainstream media has when it comes to covering matters of “public concern,” such as legislative proceedings, school board meetings, and the actions of state officials.
Under current law, commonly known as the “Privileged Matters Clause” of the Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code (Sec. 73.002), coverage by the mainstream media of matters of “public concern” such as those listed above cannot be used as grounds for a libel action.
Texas bloggers and citizen journalists, however, do not have similar protections. In theory, if a politician or officeholder wanted to cause a blog a great deal of problems, he or she could file a libel or slander lawsuit over writings discussing a matter of 'public concern.' It would then be up to the court system–after, no doubt, significant expense for the blogger or citizen journalist–to determine whether or not the 'Privileged Matters Clause' applies to bloggers.
Texas bloggers have been fortunate in that no one has been forced to be a test case for this yet. Rep. Pena’s bill ensures that no Texas blogger or citizen journalist ever will. It gives us the same protections as the mainstream media in this regard."This is a good bill and needs our support. It would only give bloggers the same protections that is afforded other media. It still would not allow bloggers to intentionally defame or lie about matters they cover, and would not let them target non-public individuals to harm them (just as major media cannot do).
This is a bill that should have bi-partisan support, as it would protect both progressive and conservative bloggers. Contact your state representative and let him/her know this is a bill that should be passed.
Every day, more and more people are getting much of their political and community interest news from internet bloggers. This bill can assure the people get the full story from bloggers who are not afraid to tell the truth.