In 2012, Ethiopia sentenced a prominent blogger to between eight years to life on charges of conspiring to topple the government. On Monday, per Reuters Aaron Maasho (@AaronMG), Ethiopia charged six bloggers with attempting to incite violence.
Reporters Without Borders warned that the bill is likely to reduce the space for free debate in Russia even further. “Like previous reforms, this bill’s sole aim is to increase control over online content,” RWB said.
The Russian and Ethiopian actions have drawn intense scrutiny, inside an outside of their countries.
The reason being is that these bloggers are essentially journalists. The bloggers represented a voice from those not heard before. A voice reporting on events and government action that had gone unreported before.
Hearing of events like this, which are routine in countries around the world, I can’t help but think that American lawyers take blogging for granted.
First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, speaking at Above the Law’s Blog Conference last month, reminded the audience of the protection American courts give to the press, including bloggers. Rather than carve out a separate category of speech for bloggers providing lesser protection, the courts gave deference to bloggers on free speech.
Yet, many lawyers in this country look at blogging as a marketing gimmick.
I can hear lots of lawyers saying things like:
- I don’t have time to blog, even if it took only two to three hours every week or two.
- I’d rather buy blog content from someone else, even if it misleads people who rightly assume I write my own log posts.
- I don’t really care what my blog content is, I just use my blog to game Google for high search rankings.
- I am not blogging to provide helpful information on niche and local law to help consumers and business people. It’s about me.
- I don’t link out to nor engage other law blogs. I don’t want to help them.
- I don’t take positions or provide commentary on my blog. That wouldn’t be appropriate for me or my firm.
- I don’t call out those companies, people, or government agencies, who I believe are acting wrongly.
We’re talking about journalism and the press here. Ought not lawyers, of all people, refrain from trampling over a medium like blogging which gives life to free speech.
Of course there are situations based on the type of work a lawyer is doing, their clients, and their position in a community that a lawyer can not speak their mind. In many cases it would not be ethical. But this doesn’t give all lawyers the right to dismiss the importance of blogging.
Maybe it’s just me, but lawyers dismissing the true meaning of blogging, free speech, seem to exhibit a lack of respect for those jailed in other countries and the importance of the First Amendment in this country.
Image courtesy of Flickr by Kevin Harber