IU launches global media law center

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HSPA Foundation will contribute ideas to effort

The Indiana University School of Journalism created a new research center focusing on legal protection for the media in Indiana, the United States and worldwide.

The Center for Internation­al Media Law and Policy Studies will support research and host public education events related to free expression issues and provide students with opportunities to work with organizations that promote media freedom.

The HSPA Foundation plans to work with the center to create a greater awareness and understanding of the First Amendment in Indiana. 

Indiana University and the School of Journalism have maintained a vibrant international focus for decades, said Interim Dean Michael Evans.

“This center adds significantly to that effort by introducing a multicultural legal dimension to the research and coursework under way at the school,” Evans said.

Anthony L. Fargo, associate professor of journalism and director of the new center, said it is the first such project at a publicly supported university journalism school to focus on international media law and policy issues.

The HSPA Foundation discussed creating a Center for the First Amendment in Indiana more than a decade ago – to the point of drafting a proposal for funding. But after considering economic realities, staff decided it needed to explore partnership opportunities.

While serving on the IU School of Journalism alumni board, HSPA Foundation Director Karen Braeckel had several informal discussions with then-Dean Brad Hamm about the project.

In December 2010 HSPA Executive Director and General Counsel Steve Key and Braeckel met with Hamm and Fargo about collaborating on a center.

Fargo said that conversation spurred ideas within the Journalism School that led to the creation of the research center on media law.

At that time, IU wanted a unique center that focused on First Amendment rights in a way no other university in the country did, Braeckel said.

“And the university also recognized ways the Foundation could partner with them on statewide initiatives,” she said.

Braeckel will serve on the center’s new advisory board.

“To see this center cre­­ated at IU thrills Steve and me,” Braeckel said. “We talked about the great need for educating Indiana students and citizens about First Amend­ment rights in my early years at HSPA. We know the university can develop a much broader program than we could alone.”

The players involved see the possibilities for all kinds of roles for the center, Fargo said.

“This could include encouraging and supporting research on international law as well as issues that remain current with regard to media laws in the United States,” said Fargo, who also is vice president of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government.

For example, with the shift away from print to digital in journalism, Americans have found themselves entangled in laws in other countries for things they published in the United States but that went abroad through the Internet.

“While Americans sometimes don’t particularly have a strong knowledge of First Amendment rights, they have even less knowledge about the rest of the world,” Fargo said. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that when they decide to start a blog or post comments about someone they don’t like from another country, they are potentially making themselves open to being liable to the laws of that country, because the Internet is an international medium.”

Fargo said the Center for International Media Law and Policy Studies will contribute to the ongoing dialogue about media freedoms in Indiana and the United States.

The center also will seek opportunities to work with other organizations in designing curricula for teaching journalism students in developing democracies about press freedom.

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