When it comes to free speech, the question is often asked: What happens when someone makes a controversial statement?
The answer is always a lot of “it depends.”
But when you’re a member of the media, it’s your responsibility to ensure that a statement is not defamatory, inflammatory, or otherwise harmful.
So what can you do?
First, keep your mouth shut and stay calm and cool.
A statement made in a public place can be damaging to an individual’s reputation.
If a journalist has a problem with your article, you should try to find out why and work with the reporter to resolve it.
If you’re not satisfied with the outcome of your investigation, you can file a complaint with the Media Law Enforcement Center.
You can also file a criminal complaint against the journalist.
This is a legal action that requires a lawsuit.
But, the key is that you have a right to be heard.
If the reporter decides to make the statement, you are entitled to ask the reporter questions about his/her motivations.
You are also entitled to seek an explanation from the journalist before making your statement.
A lawyer can help you get answers to your questions and provide you with legal advice if needed.
When a journalist or a reporter makes a defamatorial or inflammatory statement, it may also violate the First Amendment rights of others, so you should seek legal advice from a lawyer before making a public statement.
Do not say, “I know this person well.”
This is another important rule of journalism.
Do you know what this person has done in the past?
You should never use this person’s name in a way that suggests that you don’t care about the situation.
For example, if a reporter is asked about a previous incident of harassment, don’t use that person’s names or the name of the person who harassed you.
If there is a personal relationship between you and a journalist, don\’t use that journalist\’s name or the journalist\’ s name in an attempt to smear the other person.
If that person is not involved in the harassment situation, it might be best to stop using their name.
Remember, this is a private matter.
Do your best to avoid making statements that may hurt the reputation of the journalist or reporter.
If in doubt, consult a lawyer.
Be careful when using someone’s name, because the person might not like it if you do so.
When it is appropriate to use a person’s first name, use the person’s middle name.
For instance, if you are reporting on a case involving a person who was arrested for murder, you may use the name “Charles” and the person\’s middle name, as in “Charles was murdered.”
The name should not be used in a manner that suggests the journalist is in any way involved with the case.
When you use someone’s first and middle names, make sure that you are telling the whole story.
If your statement is too vague or if you make the person sound like a character from a movie, you will probably be asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement.
Don\’t do it.
The best way to avoid these types of situations is to be careful with the way you use a name and to be respectful to the person.
When the journalist has spoken with you, tell him or her that you regret any use of that name.
The journalist can use your name if you want, but you should never be pressured into signing a nondissolution agreement.
If this is the case, contact the Media Legal Education Center and ask for guidance about the law.
For more information, contact: Michael C. Bocarsly, Staff Attorney, Media Law & Policy Center, (212) 783-5500, [email protected] Contact: Rebecca A. Seltzer, Media Legal Institute, (202) 941-0455, [email protected]