And I tried to think of a snappy title, but fell back on that old warhorse Martin Niemöller because I'm not a professional journalist and what, you think I'm being paid to write this?
… whereas weblogs are an increasingly common medium for self-expression by media professionals as well as private persons, the status of their authors and publishers, including their legal status, is neither determined nor made clear to the readers of the weblogs, causing uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits, …
Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers
In plainer language, they want to regulate blogging. Of course the regulation will be mild, and for the good of the bloggers as well as the readers as well as third parties, simply to reduce confusion and to establish legal status, and perhaps to address financial responsibility, whatever that means.
Well, I'm a lawyer, I know what that means. It means establishing "journalists," however that's defined, as a professional guild with enhanced legal protection from suit, as opposed to "private" bloggers, among other things. It also means to increase government (in this case, EU) oversight of journalists on the web. And "private" bloggers. And of course, since regulation never ends, it eventually means regulating the content of blogs, or establishing standards of what can and can't be said on blogs. Give a bureaucrat a yard, and he'll take a neighborhood.
While this is primarily of concern to our European friends, as that's whose committee this is (and legislation allowing oversight of blog content would never survive First Amendment scrutiny under the most liberal or conservative American Supreme Courts of the past fifty years), it's troubling nonetheless to me. I don't believe that the government has any business defining journalism or distinguishing it from ordinary writing by the public, as has been proposed in, for instance, congressional efforts to insert a journalistic shield privilege into the Federal Rules of Evidence.
I'm skeptical of any law which would protect a bad writer like the New York Times' Judith Miller (and her lying sources) merely because she works for the Times, but wouldn't protect a Josh Wolf because he's an amateur. I'm skeptical of any attempt to make "journalists" a separate class of brahmins, who have privileges not accorded the lowliest Facebook user. Because I can't see the difference between an Instapundit, who earns his pay as a law professor, and an Andrew Sullivan, who earns his pay as a so-called journalist but does essentially the same thing that Reynolds does, albeit with more words and ten times the Obama fandom.
For that matter, I can't see much difference between either of them and my blogging partner David, who's a better blogger than either on the rare occasions when he rouses himself to touch a keyboard.
Via A Fistful of Euros, where Guy LaRoche has more to say on what this might mean for Europe.