By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

An allegation of intimidation

Lucas Mearian, a reporter for the trade publication Computerworld, writes on his blog that the John Hancock insurance company is using legal threats in an attempt to intimidate him and his editors into disappearing a story. Mearian writes:

Today, I received a phone call from someone who claimed to be a lawyer with John Hancock asking me if I’d obtained a legal release to post a story about the company. “No,” I said. I was then told by a rather zealous attorney that I must immediately take the story off our Web site.

Mearian comes back with the First Amendment, which is a very good comeback indeed.

Note to John Hancock’s lawyers: I’d be happy to post your response.

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  1. A.J. Cordi

    I like what he said about Journalism 101. The laws that surround journalists are almost all taught in 101, and are very simple.The lawyer for J.H. was probably required by the company to proceed the way he/she did. However, I believe the First Amendment will protect him.Unless what he wrote can be proven “untrue”, he should be fine.Dan – please keep us updated if anything changes!

  2. Anonymous

    A. J., John Hancock would have a devil of a time winning libel suit in the US, given the Supreme Court’s decision in NY Times vs. Sullivan back in the 1960s. The purported John Hancock lawyer must have known that. The interesting thing is who actually contacted Computerworld, and why. One suspects that, if it actually was John Hancock, they were trying to intimidate any news outlet from publishing potentially negative news about them, or to try to get them to tell JH who was giving them (Computerworld) the negative information.–raj

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Raj: I don’t think Hancock is claiming anything was false, so we’re a long way from talking about libel. But let’s not forget that the Herald lost a $2.1 million libel suit for its substantially true (though irresponsible and flawed) reporting on how a judge carried out his official, public duties. Background here.

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