Alabama Blogger May Be The Only Person Jailed For Journalism In The Western Hemisphere

An Alabama blogger who’s been jailed indefinitely after writing salacious posts about local Republican politicians is the only person in the Western Hemisphere on a prominent list of imprisoned journalists, The New York Times reports.

Roger Shuler’s blog, Legal Schnauzer, is polarising, and his allegations are “fuzzily sourced,” The Times reports. But civil rights experts are saying the judge who threw Shuler in jail is violating his First Amendment rights.

Shuler is being jailed for refusing to comply with an order related to a defamation suit over his posts accusing the former governor’s son of impregnating a lobbyist and secretly paying for an abortion.

The ex-governor’s son, Robert Riley Jr., denied the accusations and went to court to get an injunction that would prevent Shuler from writing more about the alleged affair. A judge issued that order and demanded that the posts about Riley be deleted from Shuler’s site, but Shuler dodged officials trying to serve the court papers.

Police arrested him in October on charges of contempt and resisting arrest.

Schuler, who represented himself in court, refused to acknowledge the judge’s jurisdiction. The judge eventually ruled that Shuler was barred from publishing anything else about Riley’s alleged affair and had to take down the posts and pay him and his supposed mistress $US34,000 to cover legal fees.

Shuler refused to take down the posts, so he’s still in jail.

Some legal experts say that the judge’s order was far too broad, and that it could violate Shuler’s First Amendment rights.

Think Progress named Shuler’s case one of the 10 travesties of justice in 2013.

His wife wrote about the Times article on Shuler’s blog. She quoted him saying:

“This is a profoundly important issue and while I’m disturbed about some of the inaccurate reporting in it, I applaud Campbell Robertson and The New York Times for their effort to shine light on an issue that the public needs to know about. This an important part of the process to educate readers worldwide about exactly what is going on in Alabama courts. And we will be taking a much closer look at issues that are raised in the days ahead.”

The offending posts containing thinly-sourced allegations about Riley’s alleged affair are still up on Shuler’s blog. You can read them here and here.

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