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In the Shadow of the Big Media: Freedom of Expression, Participation and the Production of Knowledge Online

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Document pages: 21 pages

Abstract: Much of the free speech jurisprudence under Article 10 of the ECHR has been developed with the traditional mass media in mind. As a result, the courts have often emphasized the duty and responsibility of publishers to follow the ethics of professional journalism when exercising this right. This article argues that such an approach may not be appropriate for at least some of the digital media. To illustrate this point, this article looks at the public interest defences in defamation and privacy law. It is argued that imposing the norms of the professional journalism as a condition of such defences may under-protect much valuable speech. First, many amateur and small-scale digital speakers may not be in a position to meet the standards devised for the professional. Secondly, the traditional standards and processes of investigative journalism may be ill-suited to new collaborative and transparent ways of producing valuable information. The balance that was struck between freedom of expression and competing rights in the previous century may need to be reconsidered for the digital era. The article concludes that the Article 10 jurisprudence needs to step out of the shadow of the big media and ensure that all speakers, regardless of professional status, enjoy the protection for political speech.

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