Law and Media Round Up – 8 February 2016

8 02 2016

WeeklyRoundupAlthough it is more than 10 years since the Metropolitan Police began “Operation Caryatid” [pdf] and 5 years since the commencement of Operation Weeting phone hacking is still in the news.

First, it has been disclosed the News Corporation’s costs associated with phone hacking and related matters in the last quarter of 2015 were $7m, up 40% from the previous quarter.  The stated cost to News Corp of dealing with the hacking scandal has now risen to $532m (£366m).

Second, the contempt application against GQ magazine arising out of its reporting of the phone hacking trial has finally concluded.  The magazine was fined £10,000 for its contempt of court (a finding have been made in November 2015 [2015] EWHC 3322 (Admin)).  The judgment on sentencing was given on 4 February 2016.

And the Mirror phone hacking cases show no sign of concluding. There are now costs proceedings in relation to the “Wave 1” claims.

Trinity Mirror is fighting a £242,000 legal costs bill, and may take the fight to the Supreme Court. The publishers incurred the costs over a case involving a primary school teacher who had a three-year relationship with a premiership footballer.

The claimant, referred to only as BNM, launched legal action against MGN after discovering that the Sunday People newspaper had found out about her relationship with the footballer by obtaining access to her mobile phone, which she had lost.

In other news, barrister Barbara Rich has complained about “incompetent” media coverage of the Court of Protection, arguing that the mainstream media has “failed to grapple with basic facets of the court” – such as capacity, the definition of “vulnerable”, and right to die.

Data Protection and Data Privacy

The European Commission announced this week  that it has agreed a new framework with the US for data flows between Europe and the US.

The agreement has been christened the “EU-US Privacy Shield”, and would replace the former Safe Harbour agreement, which was invalidated in October last year. The Olswang datonomy blog discusses the developments here.

This sudden announcement came hours after it was announced that there was no deal yet on “Safe Harbor 2.0”

The College of Commissioners have approved the new framework which, according to the European Commission press release, “will protect the fundamental rights of Europeans where their data is transferred to the United States and ensure legal certainty for businesses“. In particular, the new framework will include the following:

  • Strong obligations on companies handling Europeans’ personal data and robust enforcement
  • Clear safeguards and transparency obligations on US government access
  • Effective protection of EU citizens’ rights with several redress possibilities

Despite the attention given to the announcement, it has been clear that little has yet been achieved. The US has not yet set up its “Ombudsperson” for resolution of complaints about intelligence-gathering activities. The Commission has not yet drafted an adequacy decision in relation to the US under Article 25(6) of the Directive, which it recognises, with appropriate humility, only “could” be approved.

At the moment, there is no basis on which transfers of data to the USA can be any more justified than they were when the CJEU ruled in Schrems. The Panopticon blog argues therefore that the press release was just “buying time”.

The Article 29 Working Party has now given its view on the Privacy Shield. It has requested the relevant documents, relied on by the Commission, in order to reach its own assessment on the extent to which the arrangements are legally binding. The Working Party welcomed the US making steps in the right direction during negotiations, but argued that there are still concerns over the scope of US protections and the remedies available to EU data subjects.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

There were no statements in open court this week.

Newspapers Journalism and Regulation

The Press Regulation Panel is asking the public to assess whether new press regulator Impress satisfies the criteria laid down in the royal charter. They have given the public 20 working days to comment on the body’s application to be recognised as an approved regulator.

News Corp’s revenue has fallen for the fourth quarter in a row, suggesting that cuts are inevitable at the company’s key titles in Britain and Australia. Roy Greenslade suggests that no one has yet found a viable alternative to the old model in which papers were funded by advertising.

The Zelo Street blog examined the Daily Mail’s decision to put its ‘Who Will Speak for England’ editorial on the front page this week. They point out the Mail’s hypocrisy, arguing that the editor is speaking not for England, only for himself.

The Media Blog considered the Daily Express’s claim that 92% want to quit the EU, pointing out that this number comes from a poll of their own readers.

Roy Greenslade analysed the lack of migrant voices in most articles about migration. Among the major findings was the fact that 46% of all the articles framed migration as a threat and migrants as actual or potential “villains.”

Last week in the Courts

On 2 February 2016 Sir David Eady heard applications in the case of Wasserman v Freilich.  Judgment was reserved.

On 4 February 2016 the Court of Appeal (The Chancellor, Lewison and Ryder LJJ) heard the appeal in the case of Leslie v NGN.  Judgment was reserved.

On the same day the Investigatory Powers Tribunal handed down judgment on compensation in the case of News Group Newspapers v Commissioner of Police ([2016] UKIPTrib 14_176-H).  The Tribunal held that its declaration of unlawfulness was sufficient remedy and refused to award compensation.  There was an article about the case in the Press Gazette.

As already mentioned, on the same day Lord Thomas CJ and Nicola Davies J gave judgment on remedy in the case of HM Attorney-General v Conde Nast Publications Ltd.

On the same day Haddon-Cave J heard an application in the case of Power Place Tours v Free Spirit.

On 4 February 2016 Mitting J heard an application concerning costs in the case of Miller v Associated Newspapers.  Judgment was given on 5 February 2016We had a post about the decision.  There was also a comment about the decision on the Ely Place website.

Events

2 March 2016, 11 KBW Information Law Conference 2016, Royal College of Surgeons, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PE.

2 March 2016 Oxford Media Convention, Said Business School, University of Oxford, Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1 HP

Please let us know if there are any events you would like to be included on this list by email: inforrmeditorial@gmail.com.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Australia

On 5 February 2016 McCallum J gave judgment in the case of Cheikho v Nationwide News Pty Ltd (No.4) [2016] NSWSC 29.  The claimant successfully sued the publisher of the  Australian Daily Telegraph for A$100,000 in damages, after coverage of a 2012 riot damaged his reputation by asserting that he was “one of an angry mob” who took part.

Czech Republic

An unnamed group of hackers who successfully hacked the email account of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka have threatened to publish more emails if their website is shut down or if there is retaliation.

France

The children of the late Angolan rebel chief Jonas Savimbi have launched a libel suit against the makers of Call of Duty: Black Ops II. They are calling for the game to be pulled and for €1 million (£750,000) in damages, arguing that the game depicts their father as a “barbarian brute”.

Ireland

The Law Reform Commission is to investigate whether defamation laws should be adapted  to protect court reporters.  The move comes after attorney general Maire Whelan argued that a change was necessary to avoid a “chilling” impact on the level and quality of court reporting.

Northern Ireland

In the case of Elliott v Flanagan [2016] NIQB 8, Stephens J awarded the claimant, Thomas Elliott MP, damages of £48,750 again MLA Phil Flanagan.  The defendant had stated in a tweet Elliot had shot and harassed people during his time in the Ulster Defence Regiment. The Judge described it as “a most serious libel” and said that the “baseless” allegations were “grossly defamatory”.

Poland

A new law expanding government surveillance is set to come into force in Poland. The law will expand government access to digital data and loosen restrictions on police spying. Amnesty International have described the situation as “a major blow to human rights”

Portugal

The Public Privacy blog examines the issues surrounding sharing information about your children on Facebook, looking at how Portuguese courts have been struggling with the application of traditional legal concepts to the online context.

United States

Courtney Love’s legal victory over her former attorney Rhonda Holmes has been upheld following an appeal. In 2014, Courtney Love was found not liable for defamation against Holmes. It was the first time a celebrity had been called to defend an allegedly defamatory tweet in a US courtroom. Blog Law Online discusses the case here.

Donald Trump and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski have been threatened with a defamation lawsuit. Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus has accused the pair of making “false and defamatory” statements.

Zimbabwe

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the criminal defamation law under which dozens of journalists have been arrested is dead. The application was filed in 2015 by human rights lawyer Chris Mhike on behalf of a group of journalists.

Research and Resources

Next Week in the Courts

We are not aware of any hearings in media law cases in the Courts in London next week.  Please let us know if there are any hearings we should be mentioning.

[Update]  There is an appeal in to the Judge in the case of Malik v Trump on 10 February 2016.

Judgments

The following reserved judgments in media law cases are outstanding:

Hiranandani-Vandrevala v Times Newspapers Limited, heard 20 January 2016 (Nicol J)

Burrell v Clifford, heard 25 and 26 January 2016 (Richard Spearman QC)

Lokhova v Tymula, heard 26 and 27 January 2016 (Dingemans J)

Monks v National Westminster Bank plc heard 28 and 29 January 2016 (Sir David Eady).

Wasserman v Freilich, heard 2 February 2016 (Sir David Eady)

Leslie v NGN, heard 4 February 2016 (Chancellor, Lewison and Ryder LJJ)

This Round Up was compiled by Tessa Evans, a journalist and researcher. She tweets@tessadevans


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