Sir Brian Leveson and his recommendations for self-regulation of the press dominated the media law news last week. On Tuesday 8 October 2013, the Secretary of State announced that the Privy Council Committee had rejected the PressBoF charter. She also said the Cross Party Charter would not, as has been expected, be considered by the Privy Council on 9 October 2013 but, rather, on 30 October 2013.
Then, on Thursday 10 October 2013 Sir Brian (who is now no longer “Lord Justice Leveson” but “The President of the Queen’s Bench Division” or Leveson P) appeared before the Culture Media and Sport Committee. Although, as might be expected from a serving judge he was careful not enter politically controversial areas, he made clear in his evidence that his proposals did not amount to “statutory regulation” of the press. Echoing well known words of the Prime Minister, he said that his proposals were “not bonkers”. Roy Greenslade commented on the evidence session under the headline “Leveson kept his patience (just about) but were the publishers listening?“.
On Friday, the Government published a final version of the Royal Charter, giving some ground to perceived press concerns in relation to arbitration and the Code Committee. We had a post about the revised version. The final Charter was given a cautious welcome by Hacked Off and the main political parties but did not find favour with most of the press who look unlikely to seek recognition for their proposed regulator, IPSO. The executive editor of the Times indicated that the press might “go to Europe” to challenge the new regime.
The decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Delfi AS v Estonia has attracted some attention. The Court held that news website could be liable for comments made by its users. Index on Censorship suggested that the ruling “could seriously affect online comment threads”. We will have a case comment about this case shortly.
Mohammed Al-Fayed has abandoned his US libel action against the singer. The action concerned a claim in Mr Anka’s autobiography that he loaned Dodi Al-Fayed US$150,000 (£100,000) after he had a large amount of cash confiscated by U.S. Customs. Mr Anka said that Mr Al-Fayed had eventually paid back the debt. Mr Al-Fayed denied the incident but Mr Anka’s lawyers produced copied of the cheques.
The British Medical Journal has been threatened with legal action by the Royal College of General Practitioners over a report concerning racial bias in relation to trainee GPs.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There was a statement in open court [pdf] in the case of Pietersen v Specsavers Optical Group Ltd over an allegation of bat tampering made in an advert. There were reports of this in a number of places including the Press Gazette, the Guardian, the Telegraph and the BBC.
Journalism and regulation
There has been one adjudication by the Press Complaints Commission this week, A woman v The Sun. The newspaper published a feature about the complainant’s brother, who had been convicted of a high-profile murder. The article identified the complainant by her first name. She said that she was irrelevant to the crime and should not have been named in the article As a result there was a breach of clause 11 of the Code.
In the Courts
On 8 October 2013, Tugendhat J heard an application for a non-disclosure notice in a case listed under the name ABC v DEF. The application was refused for the reasons set out in a judgment handed down on 10 October 2013 (ABC v Avtar Lit  EWHC 3020 (QB)).
On Thursday 10 October 2013, HHJ Moloney QC handed down judgment in Bewry v Reed Elsevier.
18 October 2013 2013, NCTJ Defamation Act seminar by Mike Dodd, 1.30 – 4.30pm at Bloomberg, City Gate House, 39-45 Finsbury Square, London.
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 later this summer or in the autumn? Please let Inforrm know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Australia: The director of “Tour Down Under” has issued a defamation claim against a broadcaster over allegations that he covered up doping in professional cycling.
In Alice Springs, the Northern Territory Supreme Court has begun hearing evidence in a defamation case against a Country Liberal Party representative and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation brought by Aboriginal advocate Rosalie Kunoth-Monk.
Canada: In case of St Lewis v Rancourt ( ONSC 6118) a motion by former Ottawa University Professor, Denis Rancourt to dismiss a libel action brought against him by an Ottawa law professor, Joanne St Lewis was unsuccessful. The defendant faces a costs bill of Can$100,000. There is a press report of the case here.
Liberia: The publisher of one of Liberia’s leading newspapers, Rodney Sieh, has been temporarily released from jail where he was sent for failing to pay US$1.5 million to former Agriculture Minister Chris Toe. This was welcomed by the Committee to Protect Journalists which, again, called for libel reform in Liberia.
Malaysia: The High Court dismissed a defamation claim by university lecturer Dr Azwira Abdul Aziz against Zamihan Mat Zin, who ran a blog.
St Kitts: The Prime Minister of St Kitts, Dr Denzil Douglas, has been awarded libel damages of EC$350,000 (£81,000) against an opposition aligned newspaper. The action concerned an article which allege that the prime minister had caused the murder of several individuals. The damages were assessed after a default judgment was entered against the newspaper.
Singapore: The Council of Private Education, a statutory body, has settled a claim which it was bringing against a blogger who argued that a government body did not have a right to sue in defamation.
Research and Resources
- The Australian “Arts Law Centre” has an information sheet on “Legal Issues for Bloggers”.
- The Czech Defamation Law Blog has a piece entitled “City council-run newspapers – duty to publish an opposition or dissenting opinion“
Next week in the courts
On 14 October 2013 Simon J will give judgment in Karpov v Browder & ors, (heard 24-25 July 2013) and Dingemans J will give judgment in Subotic v Knezevic. The same judge will hear the PTR in the case of Ecclestone v Khyami and ors.
On 15 October 2013 there will be an application in the case of Morris v Democratic Press.
On 17 October 2013 there will be an application in the case of Briggs v Jordan.
Next week in Parliament
At 10.30am on 15 October 2013, the Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee will hear evidence on Online Safety from John Carr, Secretary, Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, Claire Lilley, Senior Analyst, NSPCC and Anthony Smythe, Managing Director, Beatbullying; Susie Hargreaves, Chief Executive, Internet Watch Foundation and Peter Davies, Chief Executive, Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.
At 3.00pm the House of Lords Communications Committee will hear evidence on Media plurality from Professor Martin Cave OBE, Imperial College; and at 4.30 pm from Rt Hon Harriet Harman, QC MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (also Shadow Deputy Prime Minister) and Ms Helen Goodman, Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, with specific responsibility for media reform.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Hodgins v Squire Sanders (UK) LLP, 28 June 2013 (Sharp J)
Shathri v Guardian News and Media, 4 July 2013 (Nicola Davies J).