Law and Media Round Up – 27 June 2011

27 06 2011

In this regular feature we draw attention to the last week’s law and media news and next week’s upcoming events. If readers have any news or events which they would like to draw attention to please add them by way of comments on this post.

News

A number of bloggers (but not the press) have picked up the story about a legal letter sent on behalf of Mr Paul Dacre threatening action for defamation against the Angry Mob blog.  As blogger Kevin Arscottt explains, the threat concerned a post from November 2009.  The post, which was entitled “Paul Dacre must die” is undoubtedly abusive but it is rather more difficult to see what defamatory allegation is being made.  This is not assisted by the letter before action.  This is set out and discussed in a post on the Ministry of Truth blog which concludes

What we have here is, on the face of it, an extremely wealthy media organisation trying to bully a lone blogger and his hosting provider just because – two year ago – he said something about a newspaper editor that the editor has taken umbrage with. As I see it, this is just a straightforward and rather nasty case of a big media organisation trying to intimidate one of its many critics.

The story is discussed on the Greenslade blog and on Minority Thought.  The episode attracted the Five Chinese Crackers blog “Tabloid Bullshit of the Month” award – relegating the Daily Star’s “Giggsmania” (of which, see more below) into an unexpected second place.

We have already discussed the week’s “phone hacking news” in a post published yesterday – put shortly, more court applications, more settlements and another arrest.

Roy Greenslade notes on his blog an openDemocracy essay by Canadian media analyst Ken Goldstein which argues that Britain’s national newspapers are losing their ability to influence politics.  He argues that

“Traditional media are an important ingredient in public opinion, but they share the public opinion space with many other influences, including a variety of new media, and also including home, work, school, community activities and places of worship.”

In relation to privacy, on 20 June 2011 there was a piece by Mary Ann Sieghart in the “Independent” entitled, “We do need to stop the muck-rakers”, about the value of privacy protection in the Human Rights Act.  She writes:

“Some newspapers act as if this law had never been passed. Every day, they are full of salacious stories and photographs of so-called celebrities, some of which represent a gross and gratuitous invasion into their privacy.”

We also draw attention to a complex humourous piece, “Privacy law: a 10 minute tutorial” by Mark Warby QC on the OUP blog.

The Meejaw Law blog’s “Media law mop up” this week is “Early Resolution launch; Bahraini activists jailed; Daily Mail’s libel wars

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

It is reported that the Lincolnshire Echo has made an unreserved apology and paid a substantial five-figure sum to Bernard Theobald – the former leader of West Lindsey District council and the ex-planning committee chair who had it accused of committing fraud to force through a planning application.

Journalism and the PCC

The Daily Mail’s website MailOnline enjoyed the biggest month-on-month increase in traffic in May, taking it to a new record of more than 77 million unique browsers. Its daily average figure also rose by 21.4 per cent to 4,365,716.  Guardian.co.uk has 2,827,677 daily unique browsers and Telegraph.co.uk 2,188,745.  There is a report on the Journalism.co.uk website and a discussion by Peter Preston in the Observer, who makes an interesting point about the differences between the print and online editions point out that MailOnline is

separate – deliberately “different”. It isn’t integrated with the main print paper or its journalism. It is there, in their words, to “defend” the print product, not supplant it.

The Greenslade blog noted that, after what must be a record breaking 14 successive splashes about Ryan Giggs, the Daily Star relented on 22 June 2011 by running only a single column front page cross reference to an inside story.   Journalism marches on.

The “Sun – Tabloid Lies” blog has an interesting post on Rebekah Brooks campaign on the Baby P and “The Libelling of Sylvia Henry”

In the Courts

On Monday 20 June 2011, Mr Justice Vos heard the application for third party disclosure by the claimants in the “Phone Interception” litigation.  This was adjourned to 27 June 2011 for a further hearing.

On Tuesday 21 June 2011, the Court of Appeal (Master of the Rolls, Thomas and Moses LJJ) reserved judgment in the libel appeals by the claimants in the cases of Modi v Clarke and IMG v Clarke against rulings of Mr Justice Tugendhat, handed down on 24 May 2011.  Both the original judgment and the hearing before the Court of Appeal are subject to reporting restrictions.

On Wednesday 22 June 2011, the Court of Appeal allowed the defendant’s appeal on disclosure and mode of trial in the case of Thornton v Telegraph Media Group.  These matters will be reconsidered at a Pre-Trial Review on 28 June 2011.  We will have a post about this case shortly.

On 20 June 2011 Mrs Justice Sharp gave judgment in Caplin v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2011] EWHC 1567 (QB)  dismissing the defendant’s application for a ruling that the words complained of were not capable of a defamatory meaning.  There is a One Brick Court case comment and a piece about the case on the Guardian website.

On 21 June 2011 Mr Justice Tugendhat gave judgment in the case of Commissioner of Police v Times Newspapers [2011] EWHC 1566 (QB). There is a 5RB case comment.

There appears to have been one privacy injunction application this week (and two the week before) – but so far, no public judgments.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

In Australia, a series of cases from the New South Wales courts this week dealing with procedural issues: Scott Gartrell v Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd [2011] NSWSC 632 (concerning the form of defamatory imputations);  Walsh v Nationwide News Pty Ltd [2011] NSWDC 42 (directions in relation to jury questions); Eugene Liu v Fairfax Media Publications [2011] NSWSC 612 (ruling on meaning) and Wendy Waller v Nationwide News Pty Ltd [2011] NSWSC 611 (20 June 2011) (McCallum J giving leave to file amended statement of claim on a meaning application).

In the South Australian case of Tolega v Sandell  [2011] SASC 100 (22 June 2011) Anderson J held that publications in a newsletter were subject to qualified privilege.

In Ireland, it is reported that the first libel case has been commenced against Google based on its “auto complete” facility.

Events and Broadcasts

On Tuesday 28 June 2011 the LSE is hosting an Index on Censorship public debate with the title “Injunctions are a necessary evil: privacy, free speech and a feral press“.  Index editor Jo Glanville chairs a panel featuring Hugh Tomlinson QC, former F1 president Max Mosley, Suzanne Moore and David Price QC, who will discuss gagging orders, tabloid intrusion and the right to a private life.

Next Week in the Courts

On Monday 27 June 2011 Vos J will hear the adjourned disclosure application in the phone interception litigation.  On Friday 1 July 2011 he will deal with the third Case Management Conference in the same litigation.

On Tuesday 28 June 2011 there are pre-trial applications in the libel/malicious falsehood case of Thornton v Telegraph Media Group and the privacy case of Ferdinand v Mirror Group.  The trials of both actions are due to commence on Monday 4 July 2011.

Reserved Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

El Diwany v Ministry of Justice & the Police, Norway, heard 16 March 2011 (Sharp J).

Hutcheson (formerly known as “KGM”) v News Group Newspapers, heard 24 May 2011 (Master of the Rolls, Etherton and Gross LJJ)

Lord Ashcroft v Foley & ors, heard 7-8 June 2011 (Eady J)

Modi v Clarke, heard 22 June 2011 (Master of the Rolls, Thomas and Moses LJJ)

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