This week, as Dominic Ponsford put it in the Press Gazette, ‘the impact of the Panama Papers data leak has continued to snowball around the world.’ The latest consequences include the resignation of the Icelandic prime minister and the publication of the tax details of David Cameron and the other UK party leaders. The next stage is perhaps to follow India and have disclosure of the family wealth of anyone who stands for elected office.
Full details of the disclosures of documents from a law firm’s servers can be found on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. We had posts on the story from Nathan Capone and Paul Bernal.
Ramon Fonseca, founder of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, has said “Privacy is a fundamental human right that is being eroded more and more in the modern world. Each person has a right to privacy, whether they are a king or a beggar.” However in an article on the Global Investigative Journalism Network, Claire Lauterbach is one of many people who have argued that the Panama Papers are not about privacy, but ‘the need for transparency about how the powerful wield their power.’ Fonseca has denied any wrongdoing and declared that his firm has fallen victim to ‘an international campaign against privacy’.
However, in the Financial Post, Kevin Libin has condemned the scandal as ‘another sensationalised attack on the wealthy.’ He also said that ‘When people and companies use legal means to minimize their tax bills, that’s not corrupt or greedy or unfair, it’s playing by the rules.’
In the field of media law, this week has seen a return to the media hysteria of the “super-injunction” spring of 2011. The Daily Mail thundered “Why the law is an ass! Countless Americans can read about a married celebrity dad having a threesome with another couple. So why are our judges banning YOU from knowing his name?” Perhaps if they had asked their own lawyers they might have discovered the answer: because independent judges have balanced privacy rights and freedom of expression rights and decided that, on the facts of the case, the balance came down in favour of privacy. This is the same human rights law which, readers may remember, the Daily Mail is invoking to try and avoid the costs liabilities imposed on it by rules laid down by the UK parliament.
As in 2011, the Government has sought to jump on the bandwagon with the Daily Telegraph reporting that following this case ministers are ‘actively considering’ a change in law to prevent future injunctions of this kind. In the Guardian Roy Greenslade says that he ‘reluctantly’ supports the Sun on Sunday and the Daily Mail on this issue because he supports press freedom, but questions the need to expose private sexual behaviour.
The Social Media Law Bulletin has a post entitled “Social media users responsible for comments” referring to a 2013 ruling by the High Court in South Africa that a Facebook user was guilty of defamation because he did not delete a defamatory comment on his Facebook wall, even though he was not the author of the comment.
In England the Court of Appeal banned the media from carrying reports of a murder trial on their Facebook pages. This is believed to be the first time a court has specifically restricted social media to avoid comments prejudicing a trial. On day three of the trial the judge was alerted that there had been more than 500 comments posted about the case on social media and both the prosecution and the defence agreed that there was now a “real risk” that the defendants would be unable to have a fair trial.
The first woman has been convicted of revenge porn after posting explicit images of her ex-partner online without his consent.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
The EU is poised to formally adopt the GDPR and its sister law the PCJ DPD. The new and probably final texts for approval were released on Wednesday. Shoosmiths also reported on the GDPR, and looked at seven key areas of change which the regulation will bring.
Leaked extracts from an assessment of the EU-US Privacy Shield suggests that a key group of EU data protection authorities will not support it in its present form. The Article 19 Working Party is expected to published its official decision on the privacy scheme soon.
Information rights judgement in the appeal of Cross v IC and Cabinet Office reveals Mr Justice Charles’ views on the Queen, as reported on Panopticon.
On Tuesday PGI, Olswang and Paragon will be providing a breakfast briefing about cyber risk.
An post on Panopticon examines the debate surrounding purdah and the handling of FoI requests in the run up to various elections in Scotland.
The RPC data and privacy law blog commented on the ICO’s update to its Direct Marketing Guidance (the Guidance).
Surveillance and Information Gathering
Labour has demanded more privacy safeguards in new surveillance laws. Andy Burnham said that if the party’s objections to the new investigatory powers bill were not resolved then Labour would withdraw its support. Labour’s list of demands include an amendment stating that there should be a presumption in favour of privacy and a higher threshold for authorities to be able to access records.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
Last week was the legal vacation and there were no statements in open court.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
Alan Moses, chairman of press regulator IPSO, made a speech at the London Press Club annual awards where he poked fun at Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, and defended IPSO’s record. The Daily Mail won newspaper of the year at the same event.
Chris Elliott, the Guardian’s outgoing readers’ editor, has joined alternative regulator Impress as a consultant. In the Guardian Jonathan Heawood, Impress’ chief executive said: “We are thrilled to have such an experienced journalist join the team. Chris’s main responsibilities will be to assist and advise our existing and new members on self-regulation.”
The Gravesend News Shopper has been censured by IPSO over a report of an inquest into a woman’s suicide. They said it breached Clause 5 of the Editors’ Code (intrusion into grief).
Last week in the Courts
On Monday and Tuesday 4 and 5 April 2016, the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland heard the appeal in the case of CG v Facebook Ireland. Judgment was reserved. There was a news story about the hearing in the Belfast Telegraph
On 6 April 2016 Warby J handed down judgment in the case of Harrath v Stand for Peace ( EWHC 665 (QB)) which was an application to strike out parts of the defence in a libel action and a cross-application for permission to amend.
On the same day the same judge gave judgment in Gurieva & Anor v Community Safety Development (UK) Ltd ( EWHC 643 (QB)). The case concerns subject access requests under the Data Protection Act. There was a case comment on the Panopticon blog
On Friday 8 April 2016, Mann J heard an application in the case of Various Claimants v MGN concerning CFAs and Article 10. Judgment was reserved.
Please let us know if there are any events you would like to be included on this list by email: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Sports scientist Stephen Dank has said he will appeal after being told he will have to pay two sets of costs and won’t be awarded damages after a failed defamation law suit against a Sydney tabloid.
West Australian Liberal MP Denis Jensen plans to sue The Australian for defamation. He has lost the preselection vote and claims the newspaper was responsible as he was damaged in the eyes of Christian voters after claiming that he recently left his family home to live with his girlfriend and publishing extracts from a novel he wrote that included graphic sex scenes.
The Hoot has published a report about free speech issues in the first quarter in India.
A German prosecutor’s office has confirmed it is investigating if a comedian violated the law by reciting a “defamatory poem” about Turkish president Erdogan on TV.
Minister Konrad Mizzi is to a file a libel suit against the Malta Independent, which states that the co-founder of Mossack Fonseca said that MIzzi did not divulge the fact that he was a politician.
Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi faces a criminal defamation complaint by former Police Commissioner, Peter Paul Zammit.
Josè Herrera, Parliamentary Secretary for Competitiveness and Economic Growth, has written an article in the Times of Malta entitled ‘the right to say anything’ detailing the history of freedom of the press and defamation in Malta.
In the Hulk Hogan case Gawker has filed motions seeking a new trial.
‘Jackie’ the central figure in a redacted Rolling Stone article about her allegations of gang rape on the University of Virginia campus, must submit to a deposition in an ongoing defamation lawsuit against the publication.
A settlement has been reached in a defamation case involving prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz. The case was brought against Dershowitz by Bradley Edwards and Paul Cassell, both victims’ rights attorneys, last year. Edwards and Cassell had been acting for Virginia Giuffre, who claimed to have been forced to have sex with Dershowitz and other men as a girl. The allegations were later stricken from court records and the two men alleged that Dershowitz accused them of acting unethically.
Research and Resources
- The Limits of the First Amendment: Protecting American Citizens’ Free Speech in the Era of the Internet & the Global Marketplace of Ideas Wisconsin International Law Journal, Vol. 33, No. 4, 2016, Jean-Marie Kamatali Ohio Northern University
- Criminalizing Terrorist Babble: Canada’s Dubious New Terrorist Speech Crime, Alberta Law Review, Vol. 53, No. 1, 2015, Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, University of Ottawa – Common Law Section and University of Toronto – Faculty of Law
Next Week in the Courts
On 11 April 2016, Nicol J will hand down judgment in the case of Axon v Ministry of Defence (heard 1, 2 and 4 March 2016)
On 12 April 2016 the trial in the case of Umeyor v Ibe will begin before Warby J. The case is listed for 5 days;
The following reserved judgments in media law cases are outstanding:
CG v Facebook Ireland Limited, heard 4 and 5 April 2016 (Morgan LCJ, Gillen and Weatherup LJJ)(Northern Ireland Court of Appeal)
Various Claimants v MGN, heard 8 April 2016 (Mann J)
This week’s round up was compiled by Georgia Tomlinson who is a researcher.