Maine Blogger Case Gets Legislature’s Attention
Good news in the case of Maine blogger Lance Dutson, who is defending his right to publish his opinions about his state government on a Web site from a lawsuit. According to the Media Bloggers Association,
State Rep Stephen Bowen (R-Rockport) called today for a full investigation into the management of both the Maine Office of Tourism (MOT) and the contractors it hires to produce tourism materials for the state. In addition, in a letter to state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Jack Cashman, Rep. Bowen called for the Maine Office of Tourism to suspend its contract with WKP, pending the results of the lawsuit.
The agency, Warren Kremer Paino Advertising (WKP) has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit for defamation against Lance Dutson, a Maine blogger, for publishing criticism of agency and publishing an image of a sample ad prepared by the firm which contained a phone number directing callers to a phone sex line.
“Unless the state takes steps immediately to distance itself from WKP’s actions, it risks reinforcing its image as a state that is not only challenging to businesses generally, but which appears prepared to punish those that question its actions,” Bowen said today.
Rep. Bowen contends further that fundamental rights are at issue here. “In a small state like ours, where people retain a strong voice in public affairs, everyone has the right to question what the state is doing and how it is spending our money,” he said. “That right is sacrosanct.”
In a press release put out by Bowen’s office this morning, Bowen noted the ongoing story “has emerged as a free-speech cause celebre among bloggers and has recently been covered in the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe. The Associated Press carried the story, and a PBS reporter is following the developments. According to the Maine Web Report, ‘The blogosphere has erupted about this lawsuit.'”
“As a result of all this publicity, this action by WKP has the potential to give Maine a black eye nationally,” said Rep. Bowen, “It’s a case of big business and big government throwing their weight against a little guy who dared to question the effectiveness of Maine’s Office of Tourism. People have the right to question their government.”
That’s exactly right. It would be poetic justice, indeed, if the lawsuit against Dutson backfired, actually resulting in the state legislature taking action against the alleged corruption he highlighted on his blog.