Florida Judge Limits Blogs, Websites From Laptop Trial Coverage

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In Jacksonville, Fl., new Chief Judge Mark Mahon's first administrative order offers a narrow definition of media, limits new blogs and websites from covering trials and requires all reporters apply for credentials, reports the Florida Times-Union. If the court administrator decides some reporters are not “media,” then they might not be able to use laptops or cameras in court. The order came in response to attempts by the website Photography is Not a Crime to film a government activist's misdemeanor trial.

Judges aren't required to let cameras or laptops into courtrooms. In 2010, an appellate court ruled a judge couldn't ban a reporter from using a laptop unless the judge found it disruptive. “The First Amendment does not say who or what a reporter is or what is or is not news,” said George Gabel, a media attorney who represents the Times-Union. “The government should not be making those decisions.” He said the news media need to be independent and not under the control of a court administrator who could withdraw a news reporter's credentials for any reason. Mahon, a former Republican state representative, took over as the 4th Judicial Circuit's chief judge in January. The chief judge manages the courts in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.

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