I've been doing a lot of thinking about the Apple v. Does case and have already written a few posts and will be writing more in the future. I'm not a big fan of the "are bloggers journalists?" debate, particularly when it comes to the government deciding who is a journalist and who isn't a journalist. The only test for "press shield" laws as far as I'm concerned is whether information is gathered and then publicly distributed, or there is an intent to distribute (A Proper Press Shield Test: Publication or Intent to Publish, Period). However, despite my obvious and definitive solution to the problem, the debate about bloggers and journalists rages on.
Many commentators, both bloggers and those in "main stream media," have made the argument that, of course, bloggers are or can be journalists. Well and good. I agree with this position. However, this may have unanticipated consequences.
Today on NevOn (via BoingBoing) I read of the harassment of a foreign blogger by US Immigration (Don't Say Blogger to US Immigration):
This sounds like an unbelievable story, but it happened to Canadian blogger Jeremy Wright last week.
As already reported on quite a few blogs, Jeremy was detained and interrogated by US Immigration when he arrived in New York last week for a meeting with McGraw-Hill [Note: Wright claims the meeting was not with McGraw-Hill] to discuss a great business opportunity for Jeremy in the area of blogging.
It appears that the immigration people simply did not believe that Jeremy could make a living as a blogger. And they gave him the third degree - including an humiliating strip search - as a result for some hours. And banned him from entering the US. [links in original]
Wright's original posts appear unavailable, but he has posted "The End of the Story
Im still not 100% sure what happened at Customs at the airport. Really, totally unsure. However at the very least I was denied entry and flagged for followup any other time I try to enter. As far as I can tell, I am not banned from entering. Im not sure why the border guard said I was, threatened to throw me and jail and sieze my assets, etc.....
Anyways, Im not going to New York. The company basically needed someone there this week, and the only way to get a Visa is through a fairly standard 2 week process. Which I understand, and Im not mad about, it just means Im not going.
What happened here? Well, I don't have any more information, but Wright's story reminded me of a journalist's story from May 2004, as recounted in Slate
Last week a British reporter was detained by immigration officials and then expelled from the United States for traveling here without knowing that the visa rules had changed. More precisely, she didn't know that a decades-old unenforced rule was suddenly being enforced against friendly tourists long accustomed to entering the country without a visa at all. Elena Lappin, a freelance journalist from the United Kingdom (who has written for Slate), was stopped at Los Angeles International Airport, subjected to a body search, handcuffed, frog-marched through the airport, and then held in a cell at a detention center overnightall because she dared travel to the United States without a special journalist visa. There has been a rule on the books since 1952 requiring foreign journalists to obtain special "I visas," but foreign journalists say it was invariably ignored by Immigration and Naturalization Service officials who required only that citizens of friendly countries apply for a visa waiver, an exemption allowing most residents of 27 enumerated countries to visit the United States for business or pleasure for up to 90 days without jumping through any INS hoops.
No more. When the INS was folded into the Department of Homeland Security in March 2003, the I-visa rule began to be enforced in earnest, sometimes, resulting in at least 15 journalists from friendly countries being forcibly detained, interrogated, fingerprinted, and held in cells overnightwith most denied access to phones, pens, lawyers, or their consular officials. Their friendly welcome at the detention center included lights that shone all night long and video surveillance of the entire cell, often including toilets. [links in original]
Read the whole thing for more on this travesty of freedom of speech.
Could this be what happened to Wright? Even if it isn't, wouldn't this be a nice tool to deny entry to foreign visitors who happen to be bloggers? "You're a blogger? That means you're a journalist, which means you need an 'I' Visa. Don't have one? Too bad."
When everyone is a journalist will everyone need an "I" Visa? Will U.S. bloggers face reciprocity? Perhaps we should change this "I" Visa nonsense instead.