The subject matter of this thesis is the individual — the citizen journalist — who utilises the Internet and its various social media platforms tools in providing information, news and matters of public interest within a socio-political context and engaging with other individuals through commentary, opinion and debate. The central theme of the thesis is the exploration of the interaction between the citizen journalist on the Internet, the media and the law. The thesis premises on the belief that citizen journalism on the Internet needs a legal environment which encourages the protection of the right type of speech that fuels socio-political discussion and debate in matters of public interest. Only then can the positive contribution of citizen journalism on the Internet thrive and the individual's contribution to meaningful discourse can be sustained. Underlying this is the sentiment that the credibility of citizen journalism on the Internet as a positive element in society rests upon its legal recognition. The original contribution of the thesis to knowledge is the exploration of firstly, the extension of the traditional media rights and responsibilities to citizen journalists on the Internet when contributing to socio-political discussion which is in the public interest; and secondly, setting out the development of new legal norms in relation to citizen journalists on the Internet, different from those related to the traditional mainstream media and professional journalists and unique to citizen journalism on the Internet. The legal consideration of rights and responsibilities of citizen journalists on the Internet pivots on the backdrop of the historical contribution of citizen journalism as well as the rise of the phenomenon and the theoretical underpinnings that support citizen journalism on the Internet as an effective tool of speech and expression. The thesis advances the application of constitutional jurisprudence of the freedom of speech and expression to social media activity, the extension of rights and responsibilities of traditional mainstream media to citizen journalists on the Internet, the proposition of novel legal treatment of Internet-enabled citizen journalism and advances new principles in relation thereto.
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