This week we have what, to many readers, may be welcome rest from Leveson and Royal Charters. The biggest legal media story of the week was, slightly unusually, two High Court judgments. Both concerned libel actions brought by foreign residents.
The first, and most widely publicised, was Simon J’s decision in Karpov v Browder ( EWHC 3071 (QB)). The judge struck out a claim by a retired Russian police officer against the hedge fund manager Bill Browder. The claim arose from Mr Browder’s relentless campaign for justice in the case of the brutal death of Russian lawyer Serge Magnitsky. The judge held that there was no “real or substantial tort” in the jurisdiction and struck out the proceedings as an abuse of the process. There were comments on the decision in, inter alia, the Press Gazette, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph,and the Times [£] and much international media attention.
Then there was the decision of Dingemans J in Subotic v Knezevic ( EWHC 3011 (QB)). The claim was brought by a Serbian living in Geneva against a Montenegrin living in Zagreb. The judge struck the claim out as an abuse on the basis that there was no substantial publication in England and Wales.
A number of commentators have suggested that these two decisions, in the words of Out-Law.com “‘foreshadow’ clampdown on libel tourism in imminent defamation law reforms”. Similar views were expressed in the Guardian and the Financial Times. However, only Subotic was a classic “libel tourism” case – a foreign claimant suing a foreign defendant in the English courts. In the Karpov case, the defendant was based in England and some of the material sued on had been published here. The claim was struck out because the claimant did not have any sufficient reputation in this country. It is, however, interesting that the greatly exaggerated “problem of libel tourism” (see Gavin Phillipson’s post here) is being dealt with by the judges, without any apparent need for statutory intervention.
Another, much discussed case this week was the surprising decision of the Court of Human Rights in Delfi AS v Estonia. We had posts on the case by Gabriel Guillemin and Graham Smith. Other posts about the Delfi case include those on UK Human Rights Blog and Czech Defamation Law.
There was a major conference on Media Law Policy in the Internet Age on 18 and 19 October 2013 at the University of Hong Kong. The Keynote speakers were Lord Lester and the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, whose speech was entitled ““Sharpening the public gaze: advances in open justice in England and Wales”. The programme can be found here.
The Lawyer magazine noted that the media boutique firm PSB Law has closed after partners Hanna Basha and Magnus Boyd left to join Hill Dickinson’s new London reputation management team.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
The Daily Mail has apologised and paid substantial damages and costs to Professor Joel Hayward, the former Dean of RAF College Cranwell in respect of false allegations to the effect that the beliefs of Professor Hayward, who is a Muslim, had prevented him from fulfilling his duty of impartiality and fairness as a teacher in the RAF and had caused him to show undue favouritism to Islamic students and to spend too much time on Islamic activities as opposed to his professional and academic obligations. There is a press release [pdf] from Carter Ruck about the case and an item in the Press Gazette.
Journalism and regulation
There has been one adjudication by the Press Complaints Commission this week, A Man v Bolton News. Complaints under clauses 1, 3, 13 and 14 were not upheld. There were 5 resolved complaints, all under clause 1 of the Code: Captain Alex Gibbons v Daily Mail; Peter Reynolds v Daily Mail. Peter Ellison v Daily Mail, Christian Hanagan v Cynon Valley Leader, David Lant v Sun
In the Courts
As already mentioned, on 14 October 2013 Simon J gave judgment in Karpov v Browder & ors, and Dingemans J gave judgment in Subotic v Knezevic.
On 14 October 2013 Dingemans J gave directions in the case of Ecclestone v Khyami and ors.
The application in the case of Morris v Democratic Press was adjourned to 14 November 2013.
The application in the case of Briggs v Jordan was heard by Tugendhat J on 17 October 2013. Judgment was reserved.
26 October 2013 2013, The Internet and the Law – NUJ Conference, 10.00 – 19.00 at New Academic Building, Goldsmiths University of London, London SE14 6NW
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
Canada: On 17 October 2013 the libel trial of Khurrum Awan v Ezra Levant was adjourned to January 2014 due to a judge’s illness. The adjournment was reported in the National Post – which also had a story about the background to the case under the headline ‘Exceedingly political’ libel case pits free speech advocate Ezra Levant against ‘master of lawfare’.
Ireland: The Sunday Times is seeking the dismissal of a libel action by businessman Dermot Desmond over an article written in 1998. The Supreme Court has reserved judgment on the newspaper’s appeal against Mr Justice MacMenaim’s refusal to strike the action out.
Nigeria: It is reported that Chief Prince Arthur Eze has sued the Nigerian Pilot Newspaper over a story on 17 October 2013 concerning an alleged demand for a refund of campaign funds.
Research and Resources
- Professor Andrew Kenyon has a paper available on SSRN entitled “Six Years of Australian Uniform Defamation Law: Damages, Opinion and Defence Meanings”
- Michael Smith, “Search Engine Liability for Autocomplete Defamation: Combating the Power of Suggestion” Journal of Law, Technology and Policy, Vol. 2013, No. 2, 2013, available on SSRN.
- The Australian Law Reform Commission has released its Issues Paper – Serious Invasions of Privacy.
- The Kingsley Napley website has a comment on the case of Bewry v Reed Elsevier
- There is a post on the Info/Law blog on “Copyright, Sexting and Revenge Porn: What the law should do”
Next week in the courts
On Monday 21 October 2013 Mann J will hear an application by the claimants in the phone hacking litigation.
On Wednesday 23 October 2013 there will be an application in the case of Rufus v Elliott. The background to the case can be found here,
[Update] On the same day the High Court of Northern Ireland (Gillen J) will hear an application in the case of Sir Gerry Loughran v Century Newpapers Limited by the Defendant newspaper (Belfast News Letter) for determination whether the articles complained of are unquestionably fair and accurate reports or extracts from NI Assembly Public Accounts Committee report and protected by section 15 Defamation Act 1996. This will be the first consideration of Curistan v Times Newspapers  EWCA Civ 432 in a jury action and in Northern Ireland and of Qadir v Associated Newspapers  EWHC 2606 in that jurisdiction (Thank you to Sir Edward Garnier QC MP for drawing this case to our attention)
Next week in Parliament
On Tuesday 22 October 2013 at 10.30am the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee will hear evidence from Lord Patten and Lord Hall on the BBC Annual Report 2013.
On Tuesday 22 October 2013 at 3.15pm the House of Lords Communications Committee will hear evidence on media plurality from Sir Harold Evans, Meredith Alexander, Des Freedom and Justin Schlosberg
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Hodgins v Squire Sanders (UK) LLP, 26 June 2013 (Sharp J) Note: Judgment in this case was given on 1 August 2013 ( EWHC 2404 (QB)) [Update2]
Shathri v Guardian News and Media, 4 July 2013 (Nicola Davies J).
Briggs v Jordan, 17 October 2013, (Tugendhat J).