Here are some relevant excerpts of a High Court judgment* released today on the vexed question of“Can PR attack blogger Cameron Slater hide his clients’ names from someone suing him for defamation by claiming his extensive campaign of PR hits were ‘journalistic’ in nature and heck he is entitled to ‘source protection’?”
Basically, the judge has allowed Cameron Slater and his website to be regarded as ‘news media’ and a ‘journalist’ (Congratulations) but prevented him from claiming ‘source protection’ in the defamation case he’s facing.
Slater must comply with discovery in the normal way and answer interrogatories, because Judge Asher ruled* it is in the interests of justice that his ‘sources’ be disclosed.
In other words Cameron Slater is completely screwed. He has the choices of:-
I was rather expecting that Justice Asher would make me and other authors here honorary journalists under section 68 of the Evidence Act 2006, and that is what he did.
I consider that is unfortunate as it offers a route for the continued dumbing down of the paid media into being the usual moronic talkback hosts as the professionalism of journalists continues to descend into the silliness of a morning shock jock.
I do think that it is good because (despite my previous briar patching) because we not only got the decision that we bloggers were entitled to protect our sources, but that it was a privilege that came with responsibilities. It wasn’t a high wall in the way that a cowardly and irresponsible dickhead like Cameron Slater could cower behind with impunity.
So hello to my fellow journalists like Cameron Slater, and my fellow bloggers like John Armstrong, Vernon Small, Fran O’Sullivan, Guyon Espiner and even Jared Savage. Isn’t the law wonderful at levelling the amount of care and effort in a profession and making us all drop down into the muck. Of course in some cases this may in fact be a step up for some ‘jonolists’.
But I have to say that I was particularly taken by Justice Asher’s look at Rule 8.46 of the High Court rules that Slater had raised (see paras 95 to 103)
 I set out later my reasons for determining that there is public interest in the disclosure of Mr Slater’s sources.Mr Blomfield has given notice under s 39 of the Defamation Act to Mr Slater, alleging that Messrs Spring, Powell and Price and Ms Easterbrook have constructed a planned attack on him. In relation to the just determination of the issues in the case it would be unjust for Mr Blomfield to have to respond to the defence of honest opinion without knowing the source(s) of the vilifying statements. The extreme nature of the attack on Mr Blomfield and the allegation of a planned attack involving sources are relevant, as is the fact that Mr Slater used confidential information belonging to Mr Blomfield.
 Therefore, the interrogatories seeking disclosure of the sources are necessary in the interests of justice, and the protection provided by r 8.46 cannot be invoked by Mr Slater. It follows that for different reasons, I agree with Judge Blackie’s decision that r 8.46 does not apply. In this respect the appeal is unsuccessful
Ouch. Well I guess that means that if Cameron wants to use the “honest opinion” defense, he is going to be required to prove that it was his opinion, and not just one he was paid and prompted for. That may be a bit of a problem for him.
Similarly the “public interest” that Cameron mumbled his way through in court while trying to prove that he was a journalist under 68(1) of the Evidence Act, turns back on him in
 As a general proposition, when a journalist such as Mr Slater has presented to the public extreme and vitriolic statements about a person such as Mr Blomfield alleging, as he has, serious crimes by him, there is a public interest in the fair airing of those statements and the circumstances of their making when the issues are traversed in defamation proceedings. The vitriolic remarks indicate that Mr Blomfield is a danger to society. The remarks being deliberately put in the public domain by Mr Slater show there is a public interest in all the circumstances relevant to Mr Blomfield’s challenge.
 Moreover, it is in the public interest that court processes to work fairly. The identity of sources may in some cases not assist in relation to assessing whether the statements were true, but in others in assessing the truth of the allegations the identity of the sources may be relevant. Here, a source, such as Mr Spring, had a direct business involvement with Mr Blomfield. It is alleged by Mr Blomfield in his s 39 notice that Mr Spring and other alleged sources were part of a plan to make perjorative comments about Mr Blomfield. The role of those persons as a source, deliberately planning to hurt Mr Blomfield, could be relevant to their credibility, and thus to the defence of truth. Disclosure of the source is required for the fair working of the court process.
 Disclosure of the sources may well assist in relation to the defence of honest opinion. The defence of honest opinion is now in s 10 of the Defamation Act 1992. Section 10(1) provides that the defence will fail unless the defendant proves that the opinion expressed was the defendant’s genuine opinion. Further, s 10(2) provides that where the defendant was not the author of the matter containing the opinion, the defence will fail unless the defendant was the author of the matter containing the opinion. The test is the honesty of the opinion, not its reasonableness.57 The test is now different from that previously at common law. The concepts of malice and corrupt motive no longer arise.58 The opinion must be based on facts which are true or not materially different from the truth.
 Therefore to sustain this defence Mr Slater will need to demonstrate that he genuinely held the views that he expressed. In this regard, the identity of those who provided information to Mr Slater may be relevant. ….
Of course anyone who has been following the blogs over the last 7 years knows that the truth or anything remotely like an honest well-formed opinion it is not something that Cameron is particularly interested in. In my opinion, he is an honest employee and this is highlighted in Dirty Politics. Once brought, he faithfully frames his opinions according to the needs and wants of his employer.
I think that his ability to think in each transaction about the facts or ‘truth’ is severely limited to figuring out to spin his ‘opinion’ about his new enemy in the most perjorative and effective manner.
That is certainly what we see in the whaledump conversations.
 Thus, because of the extreme nature of the allegations, the defences of truth and honest opinion that are raised, and the s 39 notice alleging a plan to attack Mr Blomfield by four named persons who are alleged to be sources, there is a public interest in the disclosure of the identity of those sources to enable the defences to be properly evaluated at trial.
The countervailing arguments held little weight. For instance..
 This is not a whistleblower case. There are no political issues, or matters of public importance at stake. Mr Blomfield is not a public figure. There is no evidence that his company, now in liquidation, is the subject of ongoing public interest. The claims against him have not appeared to attract significant public interest. The overall impression given by the extensive material that has been provided is that the three named persons involved in the informing, Mr Spring, and possibly Mr Powell and Ms Easterbrook, were in a dispute situation with Mr Blomfield arising out of a failed business venture. There is a good deal of material from the informants which shows a certain personal animosity towards Mr Blomfield. There is nothing to indicate that the informers have been driven by altruistic motives.
 I accept Mr Miles’ general submission that there is little public interest in protecting informants intent on pursuing personal vendettas or when conducting personal or commercial attacks. In these circumstances I do not consider that denying Mr Slater the protection of s 68(1) will deter members of the public from communicating confidential material to the media of public importance or interest. While I have held there is a public interest in the disclosure of the sources in this case, there is little public interest in protecting them.
And finally having given Cameron Slater (and me) the now dishonourable status of running a ‘news medium’ and being a ‘journalist’, Justice Asher strips Cameron Slater of all protection and exposes him to Matthew Blonfield’s cutting disclosure requirements
 I consider that the weighing comes down clearly for removing the protection of s 68(1). I make an order under s 68(2) that the protection of s 68(1) is not to apply to Mr Slater in the proceeding.
So District Court Judge Blackie did great job. Only a High Court Judge may make that decision in section 68 of the Evidence Act. By saying that Cameron Slater wasn’t running a news medium, the appeal went to a court that could both make the decision that it was AND make it so that that decision’s effect was overturned. Cool eh? This is also why you don’t screw around with judges. They are really twisty lawyers.
So Cameron Slater must reveal his sources and open them up to inspection or go to prison. But whatever way it goes he will have to spend a lot more time in court.
Pass the popcorn…. This next bit will be fun.