Internet jounalists won an important victory in a Texas Appeals Court decision handed down last week. Hat tip: Bill. In the case an internet journalist had been sued by seven Islamic organizations because of an article he had written about two organizations that themselves did not challenge his assertions that they were connected to radical Islamic groups. From the Thomas More Law Center:
ANN ARBOR, MI – On July 16, 2009, seven Texas-area Islamic organizations lost an appeal of the unanimous ruling of the Texas Second Court of Appeals at Forth Worth, which protected the free speech rights of internet journalists and at the same time dealt a blow to the legal jihad being waged by radical Muslim groups throughout the United States. The Islamic groups asked for a reconsideration of the appellate court’s recent decision through what is known as an en banc opinion (appeal to the whole court, not just a panel of the court). The Court ruling, in a per curiam (in the name of the whole court) two page opinion, upheld the dismissal of the libel lawsuit filed against internet reporter Joe Kaufman by the seven Islamic organizations.
The lawsuit against Kaufman was funded by the Muslim Legal Fund for America. The head of that organization, Khalil Meek, admitted on a Muslim talk radio show that lawsuits were being filed against Kaufman and others to set an example. Indeed, for the last several years, Muslim groups in the U.S. have engaged in the tactic of filing meritless lawsuits to silence any public discussion of Islamic terrorist threats. This tactic, referred to by some as Islamist Lawfare uses our laws and legal system to silence critics and promote Islamic rule in America.
It was a lost opportunity when the groups Kaufman supposedly maligned didn’t sue Kaufman, presumably making the judgement that they would have much to lose in the discovery process.
Kaufman, a full-time investigative reporter, has written extensively on Radical Islamic terrorism in America. He was sued because of his September 28, 2007 article titled “Fanatic Muslim Family Day” published by Front Page Magazine, a major online news website. Kaufman’s article exposed the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Association of Northern Texas (IANT) ties to the radical terrorist group Hamas.
Kaufman’s article called ICNA a radical Muslim organization that has ties to Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Kaufman, ICNA is an umbrella organization for South Asian-oriented mosques and Islamic centers in the United States created as an American arm of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of Pakistan.
Significantly, neither ICNA nor IANT, which were mentioned in Kaufman’s article, sued Kaufman. It is speculated that ICNA and IANT were afraid of being subjected to pretrial discovery.
We are media (at least in Texas).
In what should be welcome news to internet journalists, the Appellate Court specifically rejected the Plaintiffs’ contention that Kaufman is not a “media defendant.” The Court held that the Texas statute that gives procedural protections to traditional electronic and print media, including the right to a pretrial appeal, also covers internet journalists. Thus, the Texas Statue entitled Kaufman the right to appeal the lower court’s denial of his motion to dismiss the frivolous libel claim before a time-consuming and expensive trial. Most parties have to wait until after a trial before they can appeal an unfavorable lower court ruling.
Ah, free speech—-America’s bulwark against tyrants!