Media news has been dominated by industry reaction to the arrests of Sun journalists in Operation Elveden, which Inforrm covered in several posts, including a discussion on ‘The Sun, Press Freedom and the “Freedom of Speech League Table”‘, Brian Cathcart on ‘The Sun, The baby and the bathwater’ and Julian Petley on how ‘the Sun has eroded British justice, fairness and freedom: now it is feeling the effects”.
Following Rupert Murdoch’s visit to Wapping, Geoffrey Robertson QC has challenged claims that News International is legally obliged to hand over certain evidence to the police.
Naturally there has been less Leveson-related news this week, as the Inquiry takes a break from hearings until Module 2. Index on Censorship’s Marta Cooper reflects on developments so far and picks out key developments here. The outgoing chief executive and president of the Associated Press gave an interview to the Guardian in which he said his staff have felt a “chilling” effect as a result of the phone hacking scandal:
“You always worry that it could bring censorship of one form or another … We are already seeing my journalists here [in the UK] report the easy information that we used to get from the police has pretty much dried up.
“The laws on hacking and payments are rather clear. We don’t need more laws there but somebody didn’t enforce what was already there. Why did they not enforce them? What was really going on and how does that get resolved?”
According to the Telegraph, Robert Thompson, 29, convicted for the murder of James Bulger, may pursue legal action over the interception of his voicemails. Brian Cathcart has raised questions about the case on the Hacked Off campaign website, asking “how did the News of the World penetrate the official security around him?”. He says:
“There may be many who don’t like to think that Robert Thompson might receive thousands in compensation from News International, but we should ask ourselves who is responsible.”
Press Gazette reports on four alleged court order breaches by sport reporters since 2010 but says it understands “they are not being investigated“. It claims that the Attorney General is “investigating an alleged court order breach made by a sports reporter from Talksport on 17 November 2011“, as well as a tweet sent by Guardian reporter during the Harry Redknapp trial (see last week’s round up).
Mike Harris argues on Index on Censorship that a number of recent cases involving local councils “demonstrate the need to include a prohibition on all public bodies from suing for libel“.
A campaign to ‘save FoI’ launches today. A group of concerned individuals are making their call as the Justice Committee begins its post-legislative scrutiny of Freedom of Information Act, which the campaigners fear “will be used to legitimise attempts by the Government to weaken FOI“. More information on the campaign’s blog.
Open University lecturer Tony Hirst has drawn our attention to the part of the Protection of Freedoms Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, dealing with the release of public datasets, Part 6 Freedom of information and data protection: Publication of certain datasets. ActNowTraining has a related post here.
The Boston Business Journal’s web editor raises some important copyright questions about ‘Pinterest’, the new – and much talked about – social bookmarking service allowing users to place digital items of interest to personal ‘pinboards’.
Meanwhile, three libel actions involving Twitter have been in the news around the world this week, as Inforrm reports here.
Belatedly, we report on a recent seminar held at the insurer Hiscox, on the future of press regulation with 5RB’s Matthew Nicklin and Wiggin’s Caroline Kean. Hiscox has a report from the event on 1 February 2012 here. “If tougher regulation is brought in, it should be accompanied by new dispute resolution processes, such as arbitration and mediation, that allow earlier resolution and wider access to justice at lower cost“, said Ian Birdsey, head of UK & International TMT claims at Hiscox.
On 8 February 2012, Bindmans held a debate at University College London on press rights versus privacy rights, which legal blogger and researcher Adam Fellows reported on his blog here, accompanied by his own commentary.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in Open Court.
Journalism and the PCC
The FleetStreetBlues blog has a sobering post on the culture of bullying in journalism and argues that the profession does not need to be like this: “Short-term contracts, commercial pressures and the intense competition on Fleet Street are all factors which contribute – but ultimately it comes down to character. If your boss is bullying you, it’s not because ‘that’s how nationals work’ or ‘you’re in the big leagues now‘. It’s because he or she thinks they can get away with it.“
The BBC has responded to an article in the Daily Mail which claimed that the BBC spent £4m laying off staff, but half the employees continued working as normal. “This article is inaccurate and misrepresents the facts” the corporation stated, as reported by Tabloid Watch here.
Press Gazette reports on empirical research by Jackie Newton, of Liverpool John Moores University, and Dr Sallyanne Duncan, of the University of Strathclyde that examines the role of the “death knock” when reporting sudden bereavement. We also draw your attention to the interesting comments below the article, which includes a response from one of the authors.
There is one new adjudicated PCC case to report: a Clause 5 (intrusion into grief or shock) complaint by Mrs Leigh Blows against The Northern Echo was upheld, while her Clause 3 (privacy) was not upheld. Mrs Blows had complained over the newspaper’s coverage of the crash-landing of her husband’s glider.
There are a number of resolved complaints since last week, including the Met Office v The Daily Telegraph (over the accuracy of claims about the Met’s ability to predict the weather); Richard Ottaway MP v The Daily Telegraph (clause 1, accuracy) and the British Association of Social Workers v Community Care (clause 1, accuracy).
Research and resources
Ahead of ‘Open Justice Week’, which begins Monday 27 February, the Open Justice UK blog has published a guide to court reporting by Gordon Darroch (aimed at Scottish reporters).
‘Protecting Reputation: Defamation and Negligence’, Edinburgh School of Law Research Paper No. 2012/8, by Eric Descheemaeker, University of Edinburgh – School of Law, is available via the SSRN website.
We updated our list of recent articles, including new books on media law, here.
In the Courts
On 15 February 2012 Lindblom J handed down judgment in Spelman v Express Newspapers ( EWHC 239 (QB)). We had an Inforrm post on this decision. The return date was on Thursday 16 February 2012 before Tugendhat J. Judgment was reserved and will be handed down on 22 February 2012.
On 17 February 2012, Tugendhat J handed down two judgments in breach of confidence cases. The first, Gold v Cox ( EWHC 272 (QB)) concerned the threatened publication of a book about Jacqueline Gold, the chief executive of Ann Summers. Inforrm had a post on the case. The matter was adjourned to 22 February 2012.
The second case, IPCC v Warner ( EWHC 271 (QB)) concerned an injunction prohibiting the defendants from disclosing documents and information which had been sent by the IPCC to the first defendant by mistake.
27 February 2012, ‘Open Justice Week’, initiative asking writers, legal professionals and members of the public to collaborate using social media to share their experiences of a week in the life of the legal system.
28 February 2012, 1pm, ‘Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom‘ – Rebecca MacKinnon, at Polis, LSE, Clement House Room 302 (Third Floor), Clement House, 99 Aldwych.
29 February 2012, 9am-2pm. ‘Justice Wide Open‘. Half-day seminar on legal knowledge in a digital age, with speakers including Geoffrey Robertson QC, Hugh Tomlinson QC, Heather Brooke, Mike Dodd and Adam Wagner. Room A130, College Building, City University London [please note room change].
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In Saint John (City) v Ferguson, 2012 NBQB 46 the Court of Queen’s Bench in New Brunswick determined that the Board of Trustees of the City of Saint John Employee Pension Plan had standing to bring proceedings for defamation.
The owner of Rangers football club, Craig Whyte, is suing the BBC and Robert Burns, head of investigations at the Insolvency Service, for defamation. The writ, over allegations of criminality, concerns a BBC Panorama programme aired last October. The Scotsman reports here.
South Sudan’s National Legislative Assembly is considering suing the Citizen Newspaper for defamation, after it alleged that a radio journalist was beaten by the parliamentary security personnel, a claim denied by the NLA’s speaker. Radion Miraya has a report here and the Oye! Times reports here.
The Star in Malaysia reports that the High Court has rejected a housing developer’s 160 million Ringgit (£33,140,000) defamation claim against a television station.
Two journalists must pay the president of Ecuador Rafael Correa US$2 million in “moral damages“. IFEX has the details here. According to its report: “[T]he judge said the accusations against the president had caused him moral damage akin to “spiritual harm,” a principle that doesn’t exist in Ecuadorean law.
Next week in the courts
We note that, on Monday 20 February 2012, an application is listed before Tugendhat J under the title Mohamed v The Media Respondents. We have, at present, no further information about this case.
On the same day Eady J will hand down judgment in Ibrahim v Swansea University (heard 13 February 2012).
On Tuesday 21 February 2012, the Court of Appeal will hear a renewed application for permission to appeal in the case of Thornton v Telegraph Media Group. Inforrm had a post about the first instance decision.
On Wednesday 22 February 2012 Tugendhat J will hear the adjourned privacy injunction application in the case Gold v Cox and will hand down the reserved judgment in Spelman v Express Newspapers
On the same date there is an application listed in the case of Cairns v Modi – due for trial 5 March 2012. Inforrm had a post about this case, and other “twitter libel” cases.
Next week at the Leveson Inquiry
On 17 February 2012, Lord Justice Leveson handed down a Further ruling in relation to core participant status – concerning Module 2. The Leveson Inquiry will resume hearing evidence on 27 February 2012.
Next week in Parliament
Monday 20 February, 4.45pm, Administration select committee. Television: Rules of Coverage. Witness(es): BBC, ITV and Sky; John Angeli, Director of Parliamentary Broadcasting (at 5.30pm). Location: Committee Room 16, Palace of Westminster.
Tuesday 21 February, 10.30am, Justice select committee. Subject: Post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Witness(es): Maurice Frankel, Campaign for FOI, Alexandra Runswick, Deputy Director, Unlock Democracy, Unit, and Alex Skene, Volunteer, WhatDoTheyKnow; Professor Robert Hazell, Director, Jim Amos, Honorary Senior Research Associate, and Ben Worthy, Research Associate, UCL Constitution Unit (at 11.15am). Location: Committee Room 8.
The House of Lords is in recess. The House will next sit on Monday 27 February 2012.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
WXY v Gewanter, heard 11-15, 18-19 July 2011 (Slade J)
Flood v Times Newspapers, heard 17 and 18 October 2011 (Supreme Court)
McGrath v Dawkins and another, heard 10 and 11 November 2011 (HHJ Moloney QC).
Levy v. Coomber heard 9 and 16 November 2011 (HHJ Moloney QC).
El-Naschie v Macmillan, heard 11, 14, 16 to 18, 21, 22, 25, 28-30 November, 1 -2 December 2011 (Sharp J)
Woodrow v Johansson, heard 19 January 2012 (HHJ Parkes QC)
Ashcroft v Foley heard 1 and 2 February 2012, (Pill and Elias LJJ and Sharp J)
WXY v Gewanter & ors, heard 3 February 2012 (Slade J)
R (Guardian News and Media Limited) v City of Westminster Magistrates Court, heard 7 Feburary 2012 (Master of the Rolls, Hooper and Toulson LJJ).
Chambers v DPP, heard 8 February 2012 (Gross LJ and Irwin J)
Tesla Motors Ltd & anr v British Broadcasting Corporation, heard 10 February 2012 (Tugendhat J)
Tamiz v Google, heard 16 February 2012 (Eady J)
Also on Inforrm last week
- Case Law, Australia: Liu v The Age Company Ltd  NSWSC 12, Journalists’ source to be revealed – Justin Castelan
- News: Supreme Court grants Glenn Mulcaire permission to appeal against “privilege against self-incrimination” ruling
This week’s Round Up was compiled for Inforrm by Judith Townend, a freelance journalist and PhD researcher examining legal restraints on the media, who runs the Meeja Law blog. She is @jtownend on Twitter. Please send material (eg. event listings and article suggestions) for inclusion in future round up posts to firstname.lastname@example.org.