Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Media Must Keep Eagle Eye in Check

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Media Must Keep Eagle Eye in Check

Article excerpt

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a Montana couple subjected to CNN cameras during a raid on their ranch by federal agents can sue the news network.

The nation's top court rejected an appeal by CNN over whether the all- news cable channel should stand trial for going along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents, who were investigating allegations that the couple had killed eagles.

This court action comes a little more than a week after the high court ruled that news media "ride-alongs" violated the Fourth Amendment's privacy protections. That decision means that law-enforcement officials can now be sued if they let reporters and camera crews into a private residence while they are conducting an arrest or a search. News media personnel can still go on "ride-alongs," but they can't enter private property to witness what goes on. The decision did not address the issue of news media liability.

In a 1992 ruling, however, the court made it easier to sue private citizens who are accused of acting with government agents to violate someone's rights.

The court said then that private citizens do not have "qualified immunity" when violating a right that was not yet clearly established because "the public interest will not be unduly impaired if private individuals are required to proceed to trial. …

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