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About the limits of what is reasonable in TV/radio interviews and documentary

Dear Reader,

I have had a discussion about Sophie Robert’s film with a student of english/british law. Before we get going I want to make it clear that I do not have the full facts about the case, neither am I able to give legal advice or a legal judgement on the matter. But I want to tell you about what I have found out so far and considered after talking to the law student.

Three of the people who gave interviews for the film have chosen to sue making the claim that Sophie has distorted their words in her film by means of editing.

According to www.supportthewall.org Sophie has been served with a court order which requires her to provide the court with all her footage which relates to the film she made. According to this web site she has refused to do so pointing out that as a journalist she is entitled to protect her sources. She also has complained that her case lacked due process, if this claim that a court issued such a court order without giving her a chance to put her side of the story then my level of respect for this court is very small.

A court which acts in a drastic manner without proper due process is the sort of thing we normally expect to find in a banana republic. I think it goes against many human rights and it also brings the court into disrepute. I hold the view that a judge who acts recklessly or in bad faith should enjoy no protection against either criminal or civil law, if anything he/she should be singled out for special harsh punishment as an example to others. My view is that those who know better and should display a good example to others should be regarded more harshly if they make a choice to transgress.

I hold the view that the court should only require a journalist to hand over their original footage which shows the three persons who have brought a law suit against her, anything more is a fishing trip and is not reasonable. I hold a view that unless the court can show that Sophie Robert is involved in terrorism, spying for a foreign power, serious crime or some other dire activity then they should respect the privacy of her sources.

If the three persons who have brought the lawsuit can show that by careful editing that Sophie has distorted their words then I think that they should be paid compensation and a court order to restrict the film should be issued. The degree of editing which could be used to blacken a persons name can vary. One extreme hypothetical example follows.

Every spring I jack up my car and after putting it on axle stands, I swap the winter wheels for the summer wheels. I am careful to use the stands to make sure that the car does not fall on top of me if the jack fails. The other thing to be careful of is when I pull the jack out of the metal clip which holds it under my car boot, this metal clip is a hand ripper which has given me a few cuts in the past.

Now if we take the audio of Mark Foreman talking about how like other drivers in Sweden he has to change his wheels twice a year we can make a statement which is rather different to the overall meaning of the paragraph about changing a car wheel. How about

I am jack the ripper

If this degree of tampering with a person’s words has occurred then it is a clear case for a law suit in my mind.

Things can be done in a more slick manner, it has been stated that Micheal Moore took footage from a series of different sources and edited it to make if look like Charlton Heston and the NRA are an insensitive bunch who showed contempt for the victims of the Columbine shooting at their big meeting which was shortly after the event. What ever you might think of Heston and the NRA I feel that Moore has behaved in a very bad way.

I think that the three suing Sophie need to prove that what they said was distorted to pervert the meaning of what they have said, if they fail to do so then I think that Sophie should sue the three for their vexatious or frivolous litigation.

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2 Responses

  1. We agree with most of your analysis. This case is really a serious issue for freedom. If you read our website, you probably saw the letter of the French Society of Authors which is watching the case closely.

    To be precise, a judge signed an order to seize the footage only based on the plaintiffs request.The plaintiffs argued that the footage was necessary to preserve proof and even made the dubious argument that Sophie Robert could destroy it. A “huissier”(bailiff) went to Sophie Robert’s home to seize it. She refused, hired a lawyer and fought to dimiss this decision. The court confirmed the decision and decided that she is not a journalist (even though she clearly did investigative work) and therefore cannot benefit from the secrecy of sources. We believe that these facts fits a denial of due process.

    Then the plaintiffs starting a lawsuit based on these evidence.
    The main hearing for the lawsuit was on dec 8th. Decision is expected Jan 26th and we will hold a press conference in NYC.

    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/support-the-wall-press-conference

  2. Thanks for the information, while it looks not quite as bad as your web site originally suggested (it originally suggested that it was all her footage regardless of who she was interviewing) the case is still very disturbing.

    The case does seem to lack due process, and I would like to point out that it is well known that once you give an interview that the tape of the interview becomes to property of the film maker and may be edited.

    In the chemical world we are told never to say anything as a joke in an interview on camera, as what can happen is that the joke could be reproduced elsewhere. I hold the view that unless a film maker does the “I am jack the ripper” act using short strings of words or does what Mr Moore is reported to have done to Heston then editing of a film is perfectly reasonable and lawful.

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