Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Was Bernie Ward reporting on child porn?

Two commentaries discuss Bernie Ward's claim that he was acting as a journalist when he was caught trading three child pornography images online. In the Chron, author and KKGN "Green 960" host Peter Laufer asks: "... if Bernie's story is correct, it is odd that he was so naive as to think what he was doing couldn't haunt him — even as journalistic research. But what would be the safe method for a lifelong journalist like me to report on this, or any similar story, without inherently running the risk of arrest?"

On the left-wing blog CounterPunch, New York journalist Debbie Nathan compares Ward's case to two others:
    "Ward’s case is strikingly similar to that of Larry Mathews, a media figure who faced child porn charges in the late 1990s. Mathews was a Washington DC-area radio reporter in his late 50s. He had won press awards and was known for covering social issues, including the problem of internet child porn. When arrested, he said he had acquired illegal material because he was impersonating a pedophile in order to do another story.

    "The government countered that Mathews had no notes or story assignment from a media outlet. The ACLU, National Public Radio, and other press and First Amendment organizations spoke out for him and filed supporting legal briefs. But an appellate court later ruled that journalists have no right to acquire or distribute child pornography while doing research. Mathews was convicted and served several months in a halfway house."
But Nathan points out that a New York Times reporter, Kurt Eichenwald, wasn't prosecuted during his investigation into child porn even though he said he accidentally accessed a few illegal images. However, Eichenwald went on to write a major Times story that led to congressional hearings and stronger legislation against child pornographers. He also took a 14-year-old victim he located to federal authorities.

Nathan concludes: "Journalists need some kind of system or First Amendment permit to allow them to do their reporting. Otherwise, the public will remain ignorant about what’s really going on with child pornography. And media people trying to find out will risk indictment, or worse."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is sad. I really like Bernie, but this story about him researching a book is a stretch. What happened to the book? Is there a manuscript? I really hope he's telling the truth, but it just doesn't add up.

anonymous2 said...

In the main SFChronicle piece which broke the story, Bernie's attorney (and also his agent! -- Someone who ought to be familiar with his work plans...) plainly said the very tentative initial project, which began in apparently quite *late* December 2004, was effectively killed when the Feds seized every computer in his family's home (that's the wife's, the kids', everybody's) in January '05. And guess what they found on those computers they seized, to add to their original observations from that brief period in late December '04? -- NOTHING. NADA. ZIP. Does that sound like a pedophile child-predator's house to you? The answer is very simple: If you hate Bernie Ward, yes. Otherwise, of course not. It's just that simple, essentially on party lines. Which makes sense, now that the DOJ is a political arm of the crooked Administration Bernie has spent seven years RIGHTEOUSLY blasting.