Law and Media Round Up – 10 October 2016

10 10 2016

final-logo_weekly_roundup1The most widely reported media law story of the week was the conviction of the so-called “Fake Sheikh”, Mazher Mahmood, for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Roy Greenslade, a long term critic of Mahmood and his methods, noted that “Mazher Mahmood’s journalistic game has finally been brought to book”. He also had a piece entitled “Farewell to the ‘Fake Sheikh’ exposed in his own sting”.  The Guardian had an editorial entitled “Fake Sheikh: an abuse of power”. Dominic Ponsford in the Press Gazette has examined a claim made by Andy Coulson that a Mahmood sting had saved the life of a child who was offered for sale.

In a Guardian Comment piece Joan Smith argued that the Mahmood conviction demonstrated the urgent need for Leveson Part 2. In a letter in the same paper Brian Cathcart pointed out that the responsibility of News UK for Mahmood’s activities had not been addressed.

Mahmood’s custody picture was released and widely used in the media. He has always previously fought hard to protect his identity claiming that publication of his photo would put himself and his family in danger.

It was widely reported that a number of the previous victims of Mahmood’s “stings” were planning to sue: proceedings have, apparently, already been started by the Duchess of York.  Estimates of the number of potential claims against News Group varied from 20 to “up to 50”.

Byline had a series of pieces about Mahmood’s methods of working. One details how he posed as a Home Office official to trick immigrants, and the other is an interview with former Private Investigator Christine Hart, who pretended to be his wife.

The long threatened privacy claims by Sir Cliff Richard against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police were issued this week.  At present only the claim form has been lodged. Officers investigating allegations of historical sex offences were filmed searching his apartment in Berkshire in 2014 by the BBC, leading to him being publicly named as the subject of the probe. Carole Malone in the Mirror said that Cliff Richard “is doing the right thing as the BBC and police should pay for his ordeal.”

Kamran Malik’s imaginative claim against Donald Trump was struck out this week.  Mr Malik, and his east London-based Communities United Party, were seeking £10 million damages againstfrom the US presidential candidate for allegedly defaming Muslims living in the Green Street and Romford Road area of Forest Gate.  Last December Trump said that parts of London and Paris were so “radicalised” that police officers were scared.

A policewoman in Fife said to have been “badly hurt” in the incident that led to the death of Sheku Bayoh, who collapsed and died after being restrained by several officers who were following up reports of a suspect wielding a knife, went on trial today accused of accessing “personal” police data.

“Denial“, a film based on Deborah Lipstadt’s book of the 2000 libel trial, Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt (see Gray J’s judgment, [2000] EWHC 115 (QB))  has been released in the United States.  Timothy Spall plays David Irving, Rache Weisz plays Deborah Lipstadt, Richard Rampton QC is played by Tom Wilkinson, Sir Charles Gray by Alex Jennings and Heather Rogers QC by Jackie Clune.  The film is due to be released in the UK in February 2017.  The trailer for the film is here.

Social Media

Social Media Law Bulletin has published an article about a case earlier in the year where a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) administrative law judge found that an employee’s tweets could be considered protected “concerted activity”.

Socially Aware has published a list of new developments in social media.

WhatsApp’s decision to “synchronise” data with parent company Facebook will face a Spanish probe.

The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information has issued an administrative order that prohibits Facebook with immediate effect to collect and store data of German WhatsApp users.

Germany’s justice minister Heiko Maas has said that Facebook and Twitter could be held criminally responsible for racist posts by users.

Data Protection and Data Privacy

TalkTalk was fined £400,000 for an October 2015 data breach.  This represents the highest ever for data protection breaches in the UK. The ICO has explained how its investigation of the TalkTalk cyber attack unfolded.

The ICO has called for EU-style data protection rules post-Brexit.

Stuart Lacey in the Financial Services Regulation blog has written that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will still apply to the UK post-Brexit.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner is examining a report that Yahoo Inc scanned emails for U.S. intelligence officials and said it would view any infringement of EU citizens’ privacy rights as a “matter of considerable concern”.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

There were no statements in open court read in the last week.

Newspapers Journalism and Regulation

Tabloids including the Sun and Daily Mail have been criticised by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), part of the Council of Europe, for “hate speech” headlines that “encourage prejudice” in a report.

Roy Greenslade in the Guardian commented on Derry council’s motion to stop all newspapers in its area from stocking the Sun, and the Sun’s remark that it represented “extreme censorship”.

IPSO has ruled that the Daily Mail breached the Editors’ Code of Practice with its front page headline entitled “We’re from Europe – let us in!” However IPSO took no action against the paper had already been corrected.

The Daily Star has corrected a ‘misleading’ headline about Syrian sex offenders, which claimed that hundreds of Syrians had been arrested in the UK for sex offences, after a complaint to IPSO.

Last week in the Courts

On 4 October 2016, there was an application in the case of Bode v Mundell,

There was an application in the case of HCN v Chelsea & Westminster NHS Trust on 6 October 2016

As already mentioned, on 7 October 2016, Master McCloud handed down judgment in Malik v Trump [2016] EWHC 2011 (QB).

A judgment on quantum was also handed down in the Central London County Court in the case of Brown v Commissioner of Police [pdf].  We had a news item about this case.


12 October 2016, 6.30 pm to 8.00 pm “The Right to be Forgotten – should it be a right and does it work?” The City University.

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

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions


On 7 October 2016, Kenneth Martin J gave judgment in four internet defamation actions (Douglas v McLernon (No.4) [2016] WASC 320).  The judge awarded two plaintiffs damages of Aus$250,000 each and one Aus$200,000 and granted various injunctions against Mr McLernon and dismissed the action against other defendants.

Australian actress Rebel Wilson is facing a defamation lawsuit after comments she made on Twitter where she confused two journalists of the same name. She called House and Garden senior features editor Elizabeth Wilson ‘total scum’ for harassing her grandmother, as she confused her with a freelance journalist of the same name.


A pair of defamation lawsuits in Ontario will test the province’s new so-called anti-SLAPP legislation as lawyers in two separate cases argue that the defamation lawsuits their clients are facing should be dismissed to protect public participation in matters of public interest.


Actor John Malkovich has won libel damages from French daily Le Monde on Friday over an article in which the newspaper suggested he had held a secret Swiss bank account.

Hubert de Boüard, co-owner of Château Angélus winery in Bordeaux, has lost a defamation suit against French journalist Isabelle Saporta, but has said he plans to appeal.


Madhav Chandavarkar in Livemint has called for the need to reform India’s defamation laws for the chilling effect they have on free speech.


In the case of Ryanair Ltd v Fleming ([2016] IECA 265) the Irish Court of Appeal held that the natural forum for a libel claim against an Australian pilot by Ryanair was Australia.  There was no evidence of actual publication in Ireland and the pilot had no connection with the country.


Clerics have shown their support for Bishop Joseph Kagunda who is facing a defamation charge after three priests accused him of tarnishing their names by reading their dismissal letters before the congregation and the media.


Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has refused to name the company auditing Minister Konrad Mizzi, despite the minister telling a lawyer in open court to address questions about the audit company to Muscat.

Nationalist MP Chris Said has dropped libel proceedings against the labour deputy mayor of Qala after he withdrew and apologised for comments he made in a radio programme in July.

A first reading of a law to remove criminal libel in Malta has been scheduled for October 10.

New Zealand

Former Conservative leader Colin Craig has had to pay his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor more than NZ$128,000 in damages after he was  ruled to have repeatedly breached their agreement by giving interviews about her.


The Islamabad High Court has dismissed Dr Shireen Mazari’s defamation case against Defence Minister Khawaja Asif for making unethical remarks about her.


The Taiwan High Court has ruled against political commentators Chiu Yi and Lin Ruey-tou in a libel suit from 2012, saying that the men made groundless accusations and ordered them to pay compensation to the victim.


Actress Jennifer Mshashu has won 30m shillings (£11,113) in damages in a defamation case against a weekly tabloid.

United States

Diane Sawyer is asking a South Dakota judge to dismiss a US$1.2 billion defamation lawsuit over reports about ground beef. In the report, former USDA scientist Gerald Zirnstein said 70per cent of ground beef contained ‘pink slime’, a food additive made from trimmings and exposed to ammonia gas before it was used as a filler in packages labelled 100% beef.

JonBenet Ramsey’s brother Burke has filed a US$150 million defamation lawsuit against a against a forensic pathologist who said that he murdered his sister on the CBS special ‘The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey.’

A University of California – Berkley professor has sued three women who have made sexual harassment claims against him for defamation.

States are beginning to reexamine privacy laws so that family members can have access to relatives social media accounts after they die.


Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi has written in the Standard about what to do in cases of malice and revenge porn.

Research and Resources

Next Week in the Courts

On 10 October 2016, there will be an application in the case of Lokhova v Longmuir  before Warby J and a pre-trial review in the case of Ur-Rahman v ARY Network Ltd, to be heard by Sir David Eady.

On 12 October 2016, there is an application in the case of Ibe v Ndulor.


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)

Begg v BBC, heard 27 to 30 June, 1 July 2016 (Haddon-Cave J)



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10 10 2016

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