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Michael Jackson and the Freedom of the Press

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Martin Bashir was the first witness for the prosecution. His documentary pretty much sparked the current charges when Jackson was seen holding hands with the 13-year-old boy and admitting that the two slept in the same bed.

Bashir was warned that he might be found in content of court Tuesday if he continues refusing to answer questions. Prosecutors put Bashir on the stand to talk about his video and put that film into evidence.

Jackson’s attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr doggedly went after Bashir in an attempt to kill his credibility and probably to see if he get Bashir found in contempt. If Judge Rodney Melville rules Bashir in contempt all of his comments and the documentary are stricken from the record.

Bashir claims to be protected under California’s “shield laws” that protects reporter notes and sources. Theoretically Bashir doesn’t have to turn over any un-used footage, notes or comment on what he saw and did not tape.

The idea is that what you say to a reporter off the record is guarded with the same confidence as lawyer to client, pastor to parishioner and doctor to patient. If Bashir breaks that confidence his career as a reporter is probably dead.

No journalist who takes their job seriously is ever going to roll over on a source or give up their notes for two reasons. One is industry blacklisting and two is our fuction as the fifth estate.

Confidentiality is absolutely the key to a free press. If whistle blowers like the famous “Deep Throat” are not protected then no one will ever come forward with anything.

It applies even to the every day journalist. During my time I heard coaches make comments that would have sounded racist in print, state representatives dishing trash on their opponent’s and less then polite reasons why certain road projects were funded and others weren’t.

I routinely destroyed my notes just so I would never be called to reveal any of the information I have held back from stories.

Bashir should not be forced into revealing any more details about Jackson then what he put in those tapes. If he is then it sets an ugly precedent that if the state wants evidence reporter aren’t safe.

That’s not a free press, that’s using the media as another arm of the law. That’s not America.

If you’re interested The Smoking Gun, is doing the best job covering the Jackson case.

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About Eric James

  • Ed Murrow

    Hi, I am a former network journalist.

    I saw your blog and just had to answer this

    Since 1979, I have worked for in news for 3 US television networks and some foreign networks

    I have interviewed world leaders.

    Bashir is responsible for his product.

    He must be able to produce such data that validates and ensures that he is not a fraudulent source of mis-information.

    The so called ‘shield laws’ have been wildly abused in the past decade.

    The Wen Ho Lee affair is proof of that.

    The scandals of false reportage at the New York Times, Wahington Post and USA Today were deliberate frauds that were foisted on an unsuspecting public by veteran, prize winning reporters for their personal agrandizement.

    The mid 90s CNN Peter Arnett debacle over US troops being victims of US nerve gas in Vietnam is another example of sadly faulty reportage.

    Dan Rather is leaving CBS this month, forced out after a 40+ year career…over what?

    Falsified reportage.

    With Bashir’s prior’ run ins’ in the UK over falsification of documentary materials these questions of cross-examination become fair game, not pretense.

    This is made more important by the fact that HIS ‘journalism’ initiated the legal investigation that resulted in the current proceedings. he can’t ethically ‘hit and run’… ‘look I saw this’ and then refuse to testify under cross. That makes a mockery of the journalistic ethos.

    If Pulitzer Prize winning, US accredited, US based reporters of real reknown and true stature are always subject to journalistic scrutiny and oft found wanting.

    IMHO, foreign, non accredited journalists and ‘reality paparazzi’ (‘video vultures’ like the UK based Mr Bashir), who push their product on US airwaves must also be held to the same standards of US journalistic inquest and possible US sanction.

    One can’t have it just one way, the door opens both ways. We must abide by and adhere to US journalistic standards of proof and evidence. Being vetted before going to air. ABC has dug itself into a huge hole here. Frankly, If Jackson is acquitted, he will ‘own’ ABC.

    The shield laws were originally devised to protect people testifying in RICO type cases.

    When there are questions of libel and the ruining of reputations and there are no physical lives at stake nor National Security issues, there should be no qualm with examining underlying motivations and possible ‘yellow journalism’.

    ‘Freedom of the Press’ is only valid when it enhances the rights of the American citizen, not when it is a cover for shoddy journalsitic ethics.

    Bashir has been censured previously in England for false reportage, therefore, all questions about his current reportage are fair game.

    -30-

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Ed! I thought you were dead, man! Ir’s good to hear from you again.

  • http://www.iamcorrect.blogspot.com Lono

    The American judicial system says Jackson is innocent until proving otherwise. Fortunately, I am not the judicial system and feel free to say – dude is guilty.

    now sell back the Beatles catalogue Mr Jackson!

  • Josh Callaghan

    Michael Jackson Rules MAN!!!HE IS INNOCENT! INNOCENT! Thank u

  • sue

    ive got TONS of mj trial footage, i live in santa maria and was there everyday. i got everything,celebs,mj, bj, name it, i got it.check out my pics page at http://sebringxxxlovr.tk all pics taken by me and are from my tapes