Privacy was high on the agenda this week as David Cameron met with Barack Obama to discuss issues of surveillance and security. Cameron was reported as taking a tougher line on the issue than Obama. The two countries plan to carry out “war games” in order to test their defenses against online criminals. The first exercise, an attack on the financial sector, will begin later this year.
Issues of privacy also dominated discussions of the “snooper’s charter”, a communications data bill which Cameron has promised to revive if re-elected in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The bill was blocked by Liberal Democrat opposition in 2012 and this week’s announcement was quickly opposed by Nick Clegg, who described the use of blanket data protection as “not very British”.
Two of the defendants in the ‘Sun Six’ trial have been acquitted after seven days of deliberations. Picture editor John Edwards, and former reporter John Troup were both cleared of corrupting public officials. Ex-deputy news editor Ben O’Driscoll, former Sun managing editor Graham Dudman were cleared on one charge. Jurors continue to deliberate on outstanding charges.
The ‘Sun Four’ trial continues in the Old Bailey. This week the defence counsel for the Sun’s former deputy editor was given a warning by Mr Justice Saunders about making “political” comments in court relating to cuts in the royal navy. We had an piece about it here.
The Crown Prosecution Service have dropped a case against 13 footballers investigated over match-fixing. Prosecutors described the evidence of “Fake Sheikh” Mazher Mahood as unreliable, arguing there was “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction”.
The FOI Act is being attacked, according to the director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information. Maurice Frankel warned that the use of the Act is trivialized by the Local Government Association, and that the government plans further restrictions.
Rotherham’s three Labour MPs are taking action against two UKIP politicians after remarks were made linking them to the town’s child abuse scandal. In a joint statement, the MPs accused UKIP of using the issue for “political point scoring”.
Journalist Gemma O’Doherty has settled her defamation action against Independent Newspapers and Editor-in-Chief Stephen Rae. Independent Papers acknowledged her exceptional work as an investigative journalist in an apology read out in court.
There is an urgent need for EU data reform, according to information commissioner Christopher Graham. Technology and the way data is used have “raced further ahead of anything the law makers envisaged”, meaning the 20-year-old European directive that led to the UK’s 1998 Data Protection Act is “scarcely fit for purpose”.
The UK may ban encrypted messaging services, under surveillance plans laid out by David Cameron this week. The ban, which would cover popular message services such as WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage, has been described as “crazy” and impossible to implement by experts.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court last week.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
IPSO has published a number of further “rulings” on its website. These including a ruling on a complaint against Press Gazette brought by journalist Dennis Rice. It said the publication had breached clause one of the Editors’ Code, but had already made sufficient remedial action by publishing a correction and editing the original piece.
The Press Recognition Panel has been given a budget of £900,000 by the government. Roy Greenslade had a piece about this here.
Last week in the Courts
The application in the case of Mosley v Google was heard on 14 and 15 January 2015 by Mitting J. He gave judgment on the second day dismissing Google’s application in relation to the data protection claim, which will now proceed to trial. There were a number of reports of the hearing, including on the BBC and in the Guardian. There was a report of the judgment in the Daily Mail.
There was an application in the case of Otuo v Watchtower & Tract Society of Britain on 16 January 2015 before HHJ Parkes QC who gave an ex tempore judgment.
20 January 2015, Data Protection Act 1984, Freedom of Information Act 2000: thirty and fifteen years on – perspectives on the past and prospects for the future, James Michael, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
27 January 2015: “Campaigning newspapers in a digital age” News UK, London Bridge
4 February 2015: “Freedom of Information: Ten Years On: Freedom Fighting or Lazy Journalism”, The Media Society, London
24 February 2015, “Does Privacy Matter?” Launch of IALS Centre for Law and Information Policy, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
4 March 2015: “Oxford Media Convention, IPPR” Said Business School, University of Oxford
Know of any media law events happening later this year? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
An anti abortion activist has been fired from the hospital where he worked after a massive privacy breach in which abortion files and other confidential records were released.
The All Progressives Congress (APC), a Nigerian opposition party, are suing two radio stations for libel. The organising secretary accused the two stations of “broadcasting libelous information about the party and its candidates on the forthcoming elections.”
Joseph Stalin’s grandson has had his libel claims rejected by the European court of human rights. Yevgeny Dzhugashvili filed a defamation suit against a Russian newspaper after it described Stain as a “bloodthirsty cannibal” who was responsible for the wartime murder of Polish officers. The court asserted that Stalin “inevitably remains open to public scrutiny and criticism”.
The Moscow Red Cross is suing seventeen news agencies for defamation. The branch has filed a 170 million ruble case after media coverage of Russia’s aid conveys to east Ukraine, which it claimed violated its “dignity, honour and business reputation”.
The former Slovenian Prime Minister has had his libel claims against a national broadcaster dismissed. Janesz Jansa accused the defendant of slandering his name in its investigative journalism series. He was ordered by the court to reimburse the broadcaster’s legal fees.
The libel suit against Henry Davis Jr has been dismissed. Four Police Officers accused the politician of libeling them and violating federal law when he wrote a letter to a U.S. government official regarding the city’s police tape controversy. The officers plan to appeal.
The California Court of Appeal has declared that a Facebook libel case may only be triable where the defendant resides. The court told two California residents who sued an Illinois resident for libel that they may have to go to Illinois in order to maintain the action. There was a post about the case on the Appellate Strategist blog.
A Singapore blogger has been ordered to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong S$29,000 (over £14,300) in costs after Lee won a defamation case against him. Writer Roy Ngerng accused the Prime Minister of misappropriating funds from Singapore’s retirement savings programme. Damages have not yet been assessed.
Next Week in the Courts
On 19 and 20 January 2015, the Supreme Court will hear the appeal in the case of OPO (by his litigation friend BHM) and another v MLA. The panel will be Lord Neuberger Lady Hale, Lord Clarke Lord Wilson and Lord Toulson. The Supreme Court’s Case Details are here.
On 19 January 2015, the libel trial in the case of Rai v Bholowasia & anr will begin before HHJ Parkes QC, with a time estimate of 3-5 days.
On the same day Warby J will hear applications in the case of Simpson v MGN.
On 20 January 2015, the case of Murray v Associated Newspapers Limited will be heard by Longmore, Ryder, Sharp LJJ. The first instance decision by Tugendhat J was  EWHC 1170 (QB).
On 21 January 2015 there will be an application in the case of Sloutser v Romanova.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding [these remain outstanding]:
R (Evans) v HM Attorney-General, heard 24 and 25 November 2014 (UK Supreme Court)
Rufus v Elliott, heard 10 December 2014 (McCombe and Sharp LJJ and Mitting J)
Cruddas v Calvert heard, 9, 10 and 11 December 2014 (Jackson, Ryder and Christopher Clarke LJJ)
Ames & anr v The Spamhaus Project Ltd, heard 12 December 2014 (Warby J)
This Round Up was compiled by Tessa Evans, a journalist and researcher. She tweets@tessadevans