Reporters Committee asks court to apply reporter's privilege to Web site

Press Release | June 22, 2009
Reporters Committee asks court to apply reporter's privilege to Web site

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is urging the New Hampshire Supreme Court to protect the identity of a confidential source used by an online news Web site that covers the mortgage industry.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed jointly by the Reporters Committee and the Citizen Media Law Project in The Mortgage Specialists v. Implode Explode Heavy Industries, the organizations argued that news Web site Implode-O-Meter, which aggregates news coverage of the mortgage industry, should have the same First Amendment protections as traditional media.

"There's no question that Implode-O-Meter was doing journalism when it published the news about a state investigation into the morgage business," said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. "The Web site should be granted the same privileges as any other news organization when it comes to protecting its confidential sources."

Implode-O-Meter published a story on its Web site detailing a state investigation into the mortgage company Mortgage Specialists. As part of its reporting, it published a state document obtained through a confidential source that detailed the investigation.

Mortgage Specialists sued and asked the Superior Court in New Hampshire for an injunction that would prohibit Implode-O-Meter from republishing the document and would order the site to reveal the name of its source. The court granted that injunction.

In the brief filed on behalf of Implode-O-Meter, the Reporters Committee argued that the court should have applied a qualified reporter’s privilege before ordering Implode-O-Meter to reveal its source.

“Given the high public value of ML-Implode’s reporting," the brief argued, "this case presents an opportunity for the New Hampshire Supreme Court to further define the scope of the reporter’s privilege in New Hampshire as it applies to Internet journalists. The qualified reporter’s privilege, which has been used to protect confidential sources used by traditional journalists, must be applied to the site in order to further the rights of a free press that both the federal and New Hampshire constitutions protect."

The brief also argued that the Superior Court’s injunction prohibiting Implode-O-Meter from republishing the document was an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech.