Media seeks clarity on court order

A coalition of media organizations Thursday asked the Colorado court handling
the preliminary hearings in the Kobe Bryant sexual-assault trial to clarify a
court order that appeared to run afoul of constitutional protections against
prior restraint.

Saying the privacy of the alleged victim was "of significant importance" to
the court, Judge Frederick Gannett warned in a July 28 order, "Any media
or other person who broadcasts, publishes or otherwise disseminates the image
or name of such person may be subject to exclusion from certain proceedings
and/or other legal sanctions." (The name and pictures of the alleged victim have
surfaced on the Internet, in print and broadcast, although most legitimate news
organizations have policies prohibiting such publication.) The order also
restricted some press activities and access.

In their filing Thursday, the media organizations asked the judge to loosen
those restrictions and to clarify that the order’s admonition not to publish the
name or photo of the victim was a suggestion, rather than a directive whose
violation would draw sanction. They also offered to work with the court to
implement "reasonable procedures" for coverage.

The access news out of the court is not all bad, however. The Radio-Television News Directors Association is encouraged
that the judge has allowed cameras into the preliminary proceedings.

"We think that is a signal that he recognizes that electronic coverage is the
best means through which to give the public access to the trial," RTNDA
president Barbara Cochran said. That will be up to another judge, however -- Gannett
will only preside over the preliminary phase.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.