In the US, a Colorado judge recently approved the use of Twitter, as well as live-blogging, inside the courtroom to cover an infant-abuse trial:
Prosecutors and defense attorneys wanted bloggers silenced in the courtroom next week, but a Boulder judge ordered Monday that cell phones and computers won’t be banned from the child-abuse trial of Alex Midyette, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. The attorneys argued that live-blogging and Tweeting the sensational case could tip witnesses to proceedings before they testified, thus impeding a fair trial. “I think there are other manageable options and less restrictive options than shutting down the flow of information during the trial,” Boulder District Judge Lael Montgomery said.
Last week, when the attorneys filed the joint motion to keep bloggers out of the courtroom, a Kansas journalist who has pioneered new media trial coverage cried foul. “Courts are supposed to be public and this is just another way of creating public access,” Wichita Eagle reporter Ron Sylvester wrote in an e-mail to the Colorado Independent. In addition to a Tweeting trial coverage, Sylvester maintains a blog, What the Judge Ate for Breakfast, with further insight into the local courts.
“[R]eporting through live blogging is simply text descriptions, just as newspapers have been reporting on the courts for ages,” Sylvester wrote. “When I use Twitter to cover trials, there’s really very little difference in what I do with social media than what I write for the next day’s newspaper.”
Montgomery agreed in her ruling Monday, ordering witnesses to refrain from reading about the testimony of other witnesses. “The court believes that is a more appropriate way to proceed than shutting off the reporting at the front end,” the Longmont Times-Call reported.
Before my Australian readers get too excited about this ruling, I cannot see this ruling taking place in Australia. The principle of open justice in Australia is very different from the US, and my feeling is that the courts here would be more likely to grant TV or radio access than Twitter or live-blogging in Australian courts - and I can't see TV cameras or microphones being regularly allowed into Australian courts any time soon.