Twilence in court! Judge allows reporters to tweet during Assange hearing

Forgive the poor headline, but worth flagging up that according to Times media reporter Alexi Mostrous, the judge has given him permission to tweet from Westminster magistrates court during Wikileaks editor Julian Assange’s appeal for bail. Mostrous writes on Twitter:

judge just gave me explicit permission to tweet proceedings “if it’s quiet and doesn’t disturb anything”. #wikileaks

[Update 1: For the record, this is not the first instance of a tweet from a UK court – see bottom of this post.*]

But normal rules prohibiting recording apply, according to journalist Heather Brooke, who wrote on Twitter:

Total fiasco at court today for assange hearing. No recording allowed or space for world’s press.

Mostrous also tweets that phones must be switched off unless used for note taking: ….Security guard: “phones off, unless you take notes with blackberry [paraphrased] in which case away you go”.

It’s a novel development. The Guardian asks in its live blog: “Has a judge ever allowed journalist to tweet court proceedings before?”

[Update 2: via Matthew Wells on Twitter, this piece by Siobhain Butterworth in July 2010 explains that “there isn’t a statutory ban on creating text by means of electronic devices”.] Laura Oliver discussed the topic on Journalism.co.uk in 2008.

For readers interested in the legal aspects of Wikileaks, a new account, not associated with Wikileaks’ official lawyers, is tracking events: @WLLegal.

*Update 3: Is the Times the first paper to be granted permission to tweet from the courtroom in the UK? Difficult to ascertain, I should think.

Ben Kendall (@benjkendall) crime reporter for the Eastern Daily Press in Norfolk has certainly tweeted from court before, albeit without additional permission from the judge. Via today’s tweets we learn that he used Twitter in court earlier this year.

“As I understand it there’s no law prevented [sic] electronic communications being sent from court,” he said.  He told Journalism.co.uk’s Laura Oliver that he …. “went ahead and did it and figured they’d pull me up on it if there was a problem… have a good relationship with court.”

Kendall also comments:

How can anyone prove they were the first? I doubt very much that nobody had done it before me – just nobody noticed before then.

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