The Defamation Bill 2012 received renewed attention this week ahead of its second reading in the House of Commons, particularly over Clause 5 which concerns a defence for operators of websites. Media organisations reported this aspect in the context of other legal activity around internet “trolls“, in rather a muddled fashion – as Francis Davey points out here, and Padraig Reidy noted here.
Reidy argues: “Trolling is an issue on the web, as is bullying and harassment. But to conflate either with the matter of libel reform is to seriously confuse the issues”. The Bill will next be considered in a Public Bill Committee on 19 June 2012, as listed below: ‘Next week in Parliament’.
In a piece for Guardian.co.uk, Timothy Garton Ash discusses Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act, arguing: “To make this country’s free speech laws clear, liberal and consistent, we should not only remove the word ‘insulting’ from section 5: we should repeal section 5 in its entirety“.
The Leveson Inquiry heard from Gordon Brown MP, George Osborne MP, Sir John Major, Ed Miliband MP, Harriet Harman QC MP, Nick Clegg MP, Alex Salmond MSP, David Cameron MP.
It emerged that former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks texted Cameron ahead of his speech at the Conservative party conference in October 2009, when he was leader of the opposition, suggesting they meet for a “country supper” soon and assuring him that “professionally, we’re definitely in this together“.
Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, said he believed that the Observer had accessed his bank account in 1999. Guardian News & Media said in response: “…on the basis of the information he had given us [last year], we have been unable to find any evidence to substantiate his allegation. As our response to him at the time made clear, we take this allegation very seriously, and if he is able to provide us with any more information we will investigate further“.
The Inquiry is on a break this coming week, although not, as Lord Justice Leveson emphasised after hearing David Cameron’s evidence, for a holiday:
We’re deliberately taking a pause, although we shall return to parts of Module 3 in a week’s time, but so that it’s understood, it’s not so that we can have a holiday. There’s a fair amount of work to be done, but it’s rather so that we can consider in measured time the very important evidence that we’ve heard from the politicians, and in particular this week to have had the benefit of four Prime Ministers and any number of Secretaries of State puts the onus on getting it right rather high.
The Crown Prosecution Service has announced that Guardian journalist David Leigh will not face prosecution after he admitted listening to the voicemails of an arms company executive in a 2006 article in the Guardian, as Press Gazette reports here.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
Mark Lewis, a partner at Taylor Hampton, has settled his libel claim against the Metropolitan Police, which concerned comments about evidence he gave on phone hacking to the culture, media and sport select committee in 2009, his counsel Ronald Thwaites QC told the High Court last week. A trial had been due to start on 3 July. The police did not accept liability but has agreed to pay Lewis £30,000 in damages and his £176,000 legal costs, the Lawyer reports here.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any other cases to report in this section.
Journalism and regulation
The Press Complaints Commission has published its report of the resolved complaint involving HRH The Duchess of Cambridge and Heat Magazine, which we noted in a previous round up. Heat Magazine apologised for publishing a photograph taken of the Duchess of Cambridge while shopping in a store.
Other cases included: Mr Peter Light v Hounslow Chronicle, Clause 1, 15/06/2012; RMT Union v Evening Standard, Clause 1, 15/06/2012; A man v The Scottish Sun, Clauses 1, 3, 15/06/2012; A man v Irish News, Clause 3, 15/06/2012; Mr Martin Robbins v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 15/06/2012; Mr Colin Cortbus v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 15/06/2012; Mrs Caroline Panesar v The Mail on Sunday, Clause 4, 15/06/2012; Mrs Caroline Panesar v Daily Mail, Clauses 1, 3, 6, 15/06/2012.
Ofcom’s Broadcast Bulletin Issue number 207 11/06/12 can be found here. It includes decisions on Radio Asian Fever (Leeds), Voice of Russia, E4, AIT International, Psychic Line, Party, Kanal 7 Avrupa, PTV Global, ITV1, NE1fm, community radio service for central Newcastle and Gateshead, ESPN, Swahili Diaries, Party Paramedics: Corfu Carnage, Dispatches: Landlords from Hell, Homes from Hell, Channel 4 News, and Daster Day.
Research & resources
- The database on the China Media & Copyright blog, a project run in affiliation with the Programme for Comparative Media Law & Policy, University of Oxford, “aims to provide an collection of English-language translations of the most important Chinese media policy laws and regulations, including those related to copyright“.
- The NALSAR database contains articles from the NALSAR Media Law Review journal published by the Centre for Media Law and Public Policy at the NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad.
In the Courts
Last week marked the beginning of the new legal term.
The Attorney General’s contempt case against Associated Newspapers and Mirror Group Newspapers opened in the High Court last week, over articles published in the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror following Levi Bellfield’s conviction for the abduction and murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler but while jurors were still deliberating on another charge against him. Judgment was reserved. PA Media Lawyer has a report here. The BBC reports here; the Independent here.
Please contact us with additional items for this section and we will update the round up.
20 June, 9am-1pm: Index on Censorship – The dynamics of digital freedom – a half day conference with GNI, Free Word Centre, EC1R 3GA.
22 June 2012, 10.30am-1pm: Changing the face of freedom, Free Word Centre, London.
26 June 2012, 6pm, Media, Power and the Public seminar: ‘Can the Media be Co-operative?’, Dave Boyle. Coordinated Committee for Media Reform in conjunction with the Hacked Off campaign. Centre for Creative Collaboration, 16 Acton Street, Kings Cross, London WC1X 9NG.
27 June 2012, 12.30-2pm, What should journalists be taught? Professor Jay Rosen. City University London.
28 June 2012, all day, LexisNexis Defamation & Privacy conference, London.
17 July 2012, 8:30-10am, Responsibility for defamatory user generated content: the changing landscape, Field Fisher Waterhouse, 35 Vine Street, London, EC3N 2PX.
1-27 August, 5pm, Comedy: ‘One Rogue Reporter‘, Rich Peppiatt / Something for the Weekend, Edinburgh Festival.
Know of any media law events happening in June / July? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Canada: In a post for Inforrm, Aileen McColgan discusses the recent Canadian case of Pridgen & Pridgen v University of Calgary ( ABCA 139) which was recently decided by the Court of Appeal in Alberta. The Court held that the University infringed the freedom of expression rights of twin brothers who had been disciplined for criticising a professor on Facebook.
China: The actor Zhang Ziyi, known for her role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is suing for defamation over stories which alleged she received millions of yuan to have sex with Bo Xilai and other Chinese leaders, reports Bloomberg (Zhang Ziyi and Apple Daily Ltd., Cheung Kim- hung, Next Magazine Publishing Ltd., Li Chi-ho, HCA1002/2012, Hong Kong Court of First Instance).
Sweden: Simon Lundstroem, a Swedish translator of Japanese-style manga comics, has been cleared of child pornography charges in the Supreme Court, “in a case that has sparked debate about whether cartoon characters can be considered people“, reports the BBC.
South Africa: Three of the defendants in a defamation case brought by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille over statements made in 2009 have retracted their remarks, formally apologised and agreed to pay the claimant’s costs. But according to the Cape Times, the fourth defendant has refused to apologise. Zille issued a press release about her case against the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu here.
Next week in the courts
On Monday 18 June 2012 the trial of Luke Cooper v Evening Standard and Associated Newspapers will begin before Eady J and a jury. This is the first libel jury trial since July 2009, a period of 1061 days.
On Tuesday 19 June 2012 Nicola Davies J will hear the privacy trial of AAA v Associated Newspapers. The case is listed for 3-4 days.
Next week at the Leveson Inquiry
The Inquiry is on a break this week, and will return to parts of Module 3 on Monday 25 June.
The Inquiry will be considering issues related to module 4 until 15 July and asks for submissions by 29th June 2012.
Next week in Parliament
Monday 18 June, 2.30pm, Legislation – Crime and Courts Bill [HL] – Committee of the whole House – Lord Henley. Main Chamber. House of Lords
Tuesday 19 June, 10.30am & 4pm, Defamation Bill Committee. Subject: ‘to consider the Bill’. Location: Committee Room 9, Palace of Westminster. House of Commons.
Tuesday 19 June, 2pm, Human Rights select committee. Subject: The Justice and Security Bill. Witness(es): David Anderson QC. Location: Room 5, Palace of Westminster. House of Commons.
Tuesday 19 June, 2.30pm, Legislation, Justice and Security Bill [HL] – Second reading – Lord Wallace of Tankerness, Main Chamber, House of Lords.
Tuesday 19 June, 4.05pm, Culture, Media and Sport select committee. Subject: Valediction of Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC. Witness(es): Mark Thompson, Director General, BBC. Location: Thatcher Room, Portcullis House.
Wednesday 20 June, 3pm, Legislation. Crime and Courts Bill [HL] – Committee of the whole House (Day 2) – Lord Henley. Debate EU Data Protection Directive – Lord McNally. Main Chamber, House of Lords.
Thursday 21 June, 9am & 1pm, Defamation Bill Committee. Subject: to consider the Bill. Location: Committee Room 9, Palace of Westminster. House of Commons.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
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)
Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire, heard 3 April 2012 (Maurice Kay and Hooper LJJ and Henderson J)
Phillips v Mulcaire, heard 8 to 10 May 2012 (Supreme Court)
Subotic v Knezevic, heard 25 May 2012 (Tugendhat J)
Miller v Associated Newspapers heard 21 to 25 May 2012 (Sharp J)
Also on Inforrm last week
- Opinion: Why I fear for the future of Australian Journalism – Matthew Ricketson
- Case Law, Australia: Rafiq Ahmed v Nationwide News – newspaper loses action brought by “corrupt” cop
- History: The 1947-49 Royal Commission on the Press – Henry Irving
- Is Leveson ‘Fit and Proper’ to deal with Media Ownership: the response – Damian Tambini
- Privacy in Germany: Snooping Social Networks to analyse creditworthiness – Natasha Kuilak Mellersh
- Case Law, Canada: Pridgeon v University of Calgary, Freedom of Expression, University Discipline and Facebook – Aileen McColgan
- Chinese Media Legislation and Regulation: Trends, Issues and Questions: A Conference
- Case Law: Levi v Bates, damages for harassment against Ken Bates and Leeds United [Updated]
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.