The media law week culminated in the Guardian’s explosive expose of the US National Security Agency’s extensive communication surveillance programme, in a series of articles gathered here.
Over the weekend, the identity of the central whistleblower was revealed at his request, as Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA and employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton (which has issued a statement in response). Internet companies have denied knowledge of the programme.
Oral answers from the Attorney General on 4 June 2013 related to social media and criminal prosecution, with MPs questions raising various concerns. He was asked what recent discussions he has had with the Director of Public Prosecutions “about the Government’s approach to tackling abusive or libellous communications sent via social media“. He confirmed that the final CPS guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media. He emphasised that “libel itself is not a criminal matter unless it is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing or threatening“.
PA Media Lawyer notes that Employment Tribunals will be able to restrict reporting of their proceedings under new rules (specifically, a new Rule 50 of the Employment Tribunal Rules 2013 entitled ‘privacy and restrictions on disclosure’), which come into effect at the end of July. The report [££] suggests that the rule “appears to place the principle of open justice on a secondary footing and allows tribunals to restrict reporting, give parties anonymity or sit in private“. Eversheds has a piece on the new rules here, emphasising that “the rules make clear that, when considering making an order, a tribunal must still give full weight to the principle of open justice and the right to freedom of expression“.
The Guardian reports that one of the world’s richest business people, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, is pursuing libel action against Forbes magazine “over claims it underestimated his fortune by $9.6bn“.
The BBC reports that Jacqui Thompson, the Carmarthenshire blogger who lost her libel claim against the local council and its chief executive (the latter issued a counterclaim) has been ordered to pay £230,000 in legal costs. As Inforrm reported in March, Mr Justice Tugendhat found for the council’s chief executive Mr James and Carmarthenshire Council on both the claim and the counterclaim (Thompson v James & Anor ( EWHC 515 (QB)).
Leigh Day, acting on behalf of the GMB union, has commenced legal action on behalf of GMB members allegedly blacklisted by Carillion and other construction employers, as the firm notes here. According to GMB, the claims include defamation, “given the damage to workers’ reputation from being on the blacklist“.
The trial of Rebekah Brooks, Charles Brooks, Andy Coulson, and others linked to an alleged illegal phone hacking conspiracy, will begin on 9 September 2013, as reported here by the Independent. More detail from the Guardian here.
An article on Out-Law.com looks at legal issues around unauthorised screenscraping in the context of the Computers Misuse Act and a recent ruling in Italy.
According to EU Observer, it is believed that the European Commission will agree proposals on net neutrality within weeks, which are expected to be published as part of a digital telecoms package in late July.
Greg Callus, pupil barrister and blogger, has published the results of a Freedom of Information request asking which bloggers were invited to a DCMS consultation events following the publication of the cross-party Royal Charter. While DCMS released the names of 17 attendees, it was still making a decision on part C of the request regarding “any information held as to how the list of invitees at (a) was assembled, and who contributed to formulating the list of invitees”.
The European Voice website reports on academics’ concerns about the forthcoming European regulation on data protection.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
If you know of anything to include in this section please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Journalism and regulation
The Frontline Club has launched the Frontline Freelance Register, to coincide with publication of the Frontline Club white paper, Newsgathering Safety and the Welfare of Freelancers. It “aims to provide freelance foreign and conflict journalists with representation and a sense of community, vital in this fragmented profession“.
There is one new PCC adjudication to report: Christine Hussain v Herts Advertiser. The complaint, brought in relation to Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was not upheld.
The complainant, an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser at the Emerald Centre Sexual Assault Referral Centre, complained on behalf of her client that an article published in the Herts Advertiser in 2012 included information likely to identify her client as a victim of sexual assault. The Commission considered that the newspaper “had come extremely close to breaching the Code on this occasion. In particular, it was concerned that the article had set out the chronology of the victim’s arrival in the UK. It asked the newspaper to pay particular attention in future to the stringent requirements of the Code in this area. Nonetheless, the Commission narrowly concluded that there was no breach of Clause 11. It did not uphold the complaint“. The full adjudication can be read at this link.
[We noted in last week's round up that a similar complaint brought by the same complainant against the South Wales Argus was upheld].
Resolved cases included: Mr Philip Craig v The Sun, Clauses 1, 3, 4, 07/06/2013; Dr Anthony Harvey v The Daily Telegraph, Clauses 1, 2, 12, 07/06/2013; Mr Dom Kippin v The News (Portsmouth), Clause 10, 07/06/2013; Mr Joe O’Brien v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 07/06/2013; Mr Joe O’Brien v Daily Mirror, Clause 1, 07/06/2013; Hilary Buchanan v The Scotsman, Clause 5, 07/06/2013; Dr James Annan v The Mail on Sunday, Clause 1, 04/06/2013; Mr Clive Bates v Marie Claire, Clause 1, 03/06/2013.
Commentary, research & resources
- Search for ICO Decision Notices (via FoIMonkey)
- SCL LinkedIn discussion: Are you a lawyer who learned to code?
- BBC Radio 4, Unreliable Evidence – Secret Courts
- David Howarth, The Conversation, ‘The Defamation Act hasn’t done enough for scientists‘
- MediaWatch Wales: Is media plurality a pipe dream?
- Andrew Hornery, Sydney Morning Herald, Cash for comment
- 38 Degrees campaign, Save the National Media Museum in Bradford
- Cearta.ie, Eoin O’Dell, Open justice and access to court documents – a (lightly updated) footnote
- Laurence Kaye, Copyright exceptions – beware the law of unintended consequences
- Media Rights Defence Centre (Russia) – New database on media law (interview on Human Rights in Russia) [HT: @MLDI on Twitter]
- IFEX, Reforming U.K. libel law: A case study in campaign impact
- FoIMan, No FoI in Queen’s Speech?
In the Courts
On 5 June 2013 Mr Justice Tugendhat handed down a reserved judgment following the pre-trial review in the case of Cruddas v Calvert ( EWHC 1427). He accepted the case advanced by the claimant, former Conservative Party Treasurer, Peter Cruddas, as to the meaning of the words complained of. As a result, he struck out the defence and entered judgment for an injunction and damages to be assessed at the trial on 17 June 2013. Permission to appeal was refused. Inforrm reported on the case here.
Judgment was handed down in a meaning trial in Dr Liam Fox v Boulter  EWHC 1435 (QB): the Defendant and Claimant each succeeded on one meaning. Ely Place (William McCormick QC was instructed by Simon Smith of PSB on behalf of Dr Fox) has a report here, which notes that the case will now proceed towards an expected trial at the end of 2013. The London Evening Standard has a short report here; PA Media Lawyer here [££].
10 June 2013, Caught in the web: how free are we online?, Kings Place, London.
11 June 2013, 7pm, ThoughtOut Project – ‘Can you keep a secret?‘ with Professor Christopher Moran, UEA London.
17 June 2013, “Rally For Media Reform – Our Media, Not Theirs!”, the University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1.
24-25 June 2013, The Constitution of the Public Sphere: the post-Leveson Landscape (W G Hart Legal Workshop 2013), Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London.
26 June 2013, 6pm, Turning the Page on Media Sexism, NUJ, London.
Until 9 July 2013, Co-operatives UK and Carnegie UK Trust events on ‘Make your local news work’, various locations, UK.
17 September 2013, IBC Legal’s Protecting the Media 2013, London.
26-27 September 2013, Jersey Law Via the Internet 2013, Radisson Blu Hotel, Jersey
8-9 April 2014, “1984: Freedom and Censorship in the Media – Where Are We Now?“, Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Sunderland
Know of any media law events happening in the next few months? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Australia: “The sources of at least three journalists investigating a collapsed fund manager have been ordered by the Queensland Supreme Court to hand over all correspondence with the reporters“, Mark Pearson reports on his Journlaw blog.
Norway: Blogger and journalist Kristine Lowe, who specialises in reporting the media industry, comments on a change to the country’s Penal Code, to allow for the Internet to be treated as a public place.
South Africa: On Friday 31 May 2013 the spokesman for the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, announced that the President had “elected to withdraw” his legal claims against “various Media Groups”. Inforrm reported on this news here.
Next week in the courts
Judgment in Euromoney plc v Aviation News Ltd heard 2 May 2013 (Tugendhat J) will be handed down at 10:30am on 12 June 2013.
Next week in Parliament
Monday 10 June, 2.15pm, Public Accounts HoC select committee. Subject: BBC’s relocation to Salford. Witness(es): Zarin Patel, Chief Financial Officer, BBC, Peter Salmon, Director BBC North and Anthony Fry, BBC Trustee. Location: MediaCityUK, Salford.
Tuesday 11 June 2013, 9.30am, Justice HoC select committee. Subject: Price Competitive Tendering Proposals in the Government’s Transforming Legal Aid Consultation
Witness(es): Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, President, Law Society, Bill Waddington, Chair, Criminal Law Solicitors Association, Michael Turner QC, Chair, Criminal Bar Association and Maura McGowan, Chair, Bar Council; Tudur Owen, Senior Partner, Tudur Owen Roberts Glynne & Co, Roger Smith OBE and Elisabeth Davies, Chair, Legal Services Consumer Panel. Location: The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.
Tuesday 11 June 2013, 10.15am. HoC Committee on Standards. Subject: All Party Parliamentary Groups. Witness(es): Mr Mark D’Arcy, BBC Parliamentary Correspondent
Location: Room 16, Palace of Westminster.
Tuesday 11 June 2013, 10.30am, Culture, Media and Sport HoC select committee. Subject: Regulation of the press. Location: Room 8, Palace of Westminster.
Tuesday 11 June 2013, 2.30pm, Legislation – Offender Rehabilitation Bill [HL] – Committee of the whole House (Day 2) – Lord McNally, Main Chamber, House of Lords.
Tuesday 11 June 2013, 3.15pm, HoL Communications select committee. Subject: Media plurality. Witness(es): (at 3.30pm) evidence will be heard from Dr Damian Tambini, London School of Economics and Dr Rachael Craufurd-Smith, University of Edinburgh and (at 4.30pm) from Professor Robert Picard, Reuters Institute, University of Oxford and Robin Foster, Communications Chambers. Location: Committee Room 2, Palace of Westminster.
Tuesday 11 June 2013, 3.30pm – Legislation. Intellectual Property Bill [HL] – Committee stage – Viscount Younger of Leckie. Grand committee, House of Lords.
Wednesday 12 June 2013, 11am – 11.30am – Media sexism – Caroline Lucas, Westminster Hall, House of Commons.
Wednesday 12 June 2013, 3pm – Oral Questions. Films, videos and DVDs currently exempt from classification by the British Board of Film Classification – Lord Storey
Changes to OFCOM’s statutory duties and functions with respect to public service broadcasting – Lord Clement-Jones, Main Chamber, House of Lords.
Wednesday 12 June 2013, 3. 45 pm, Orders and Regulations
Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Referral Fees) Regulations 2013 – Lord Newby, Grand Committee, House of Lords.
Thursday 13 June 2013, 2pm, Legislation – Intellectual Property Bill [HL] – Committee stage (Day 2) – Viscount Younger of Leckie. Grand Committee, House of Lords.
The following reserved judgment after a public hearing remains outstanding:
Hunt v Times Newspapers, heard 29 and 30 April, 1-3, 7-10, 13, 16 and 17 May 2013 (Simon J)
Also on Inforrm last week
- Case Comment: Ontulmus v Collett, Corporate Reputations – Sara Mansoori
- Six reasons the cross-party Royal Charter is good news for journalists – Brian Cathcart
- News: South Africa’s President Zuma abandons all his outstanding media libel actions
- Media Reform in Australia: who should guard the guardians – Patrick George
- News: Judgment entered for Peter Cruddas in Sunday Times “lobbyist sting” libel claim
- Case Law, Vestergaard Frandsen v Bestnet Europe: breach of confidence requires knowledge – Hugh Tomlinson QC
- Case Law: Hayes v Willoughby, harassment defence requires “rational belief” – Aileen McColgan
- Press Regulation: Intimidating the Minister – Brian Cathcart
- Hackgate: All Rise – Mr Justice Saunders At Southwark
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 suggestions, tips and event listings for inclusion in future round ups to firstname.lastname@example.org.