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Hawaii Tribune Giving Out IP Address of Commenters on Their Website – Attorney Trying to Make Reporter Turn Over Notes

In an article written today by John Burnett of the Hawaii Tribune entitled, “Subpoena seeks names of people who wrote online,” Hilo Attorney Ted Hong has requested personal information regarding folks that commented on an article written on January 30th, 2012.

Subpoena

Click to read article

The newspaper complied with the demand and gave away the information of their readers, which they can legally do.

…Hilo attorney Ted Hong, who’s representing Elections Office Administrator Pat Nakamoto in her defamation lawsuit against former County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong and former County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi, filed the subpoena on Jan. 4 in 3rd Circuit Court. In it, he’s seeking the identities of individuals posting under the user-names “punatic,” “Taxedtodeath,” “punatic8,” “QQ,” “548991” and “rsjm.”

The document seeks “any and all account information, including but not limited to, name, birthdate, mailing address, telephone number(s), Internet protocol address, (and) name of Internet service provider … .” The deadline for providing the information is today.

A legal disclaimer on the Tribune-Herald’s website contains the statement: “IP and email addresses of persons who post are not treated as confidential records and will be disclosed in response to valid legal process.”

“We are complying with the subpoena requests,” said David Bock, Tribune-Herald editor and news director for Stephens Media Hawaii. “We are very protective of our news sources and reporters’ work, but we have no control over what members of the public write in our website’s comments section…”

Unfortunately, Ted Hong is also requesting that one of the paid journalists to turn over her notes in the case regarding this same case involving the fired election workers.

Hawaii has a shield law that protects both bloggers and journalists from turning over their sources.

“Hawaii allows anyone to claim protections under the shield law so long as they meet certain conditions, such as proving they write regular reports of substantial public interest.” (Civil Beat 8/31/12)

Burnett of the Tribune Herald writes:

“…West Hawaii Today also was subpoenaed by Hong, seeking the notes of Stephens Media reporter Nancy Cook Lauer regarding stories she wrote about the firing of Nakamoto and three other elections workers, and the flap that ensued.

Bock said Stephens Media is fighting that subpoena, noting that Hawaii has a “shield law” protecting journalists in most cases from having to turn over their notes or the identities of their sources…”

I hope that Nancy Cook Lauer and the folks at West Hawaii Today stick to their guns and do not allow their reporters notes to be turned over to investigators.  It would be a huge step back in journalism and folks would no longer feel comfortable talking to reporters about things they know about if they might get in trouble for it in the future.

I’ve noticed that Tiffany Edwards Hunt of the Big Island Chronicle and David Corrigan of Big Island Video News have been pretty quiet and not blogging as much of late.  I wonder if they also got served with these subpoenas?