The International Forum for Responsible Media Blog

Month: July 2010 (Page 1 of 5)

MBL/Inforrm Conference paper: NGOs and the Public Interest Defence by Jonathan Heawood

I’ve been asked to speak today about NGOs and the public interest defence. I’d like to begin by clearing up some misconceptions about the role of NGOs in the libel debate generally.


Contrary to some suggestions, NGOs such as Index on Censorship and English PEN are not here to represent the commercial interests of the media. We are not, in my view, ‘free speech fundamentalists’ or ‘absolutists’ as we are sometimes called. And we do not represent the collective interests of NGOs as such, although we have repeatedly raised the concerns of NGOs about the impact of libel law on their operations. Continue reading

Opinion : Flood v Times Libel Ruling and Reynolds privilege by Siobhan Butterworth

News that veteran media lawyer Alastair Brett has parted company with the Times so soon after the court of appeal ruled against the newspaper in the Flood case comes just as I am mulling over the impact of this significant libel judgment.

Those who thought the legal landscape was altered radically by Reynolds and Jameel appear to have been quite deluded. Reading the court of appeal’s judgment in Flood, I’m left wondering whether the defence of Reynolds privilege – also known as the responsible journalism defence and the Reynolds public interest defence – might be a figment of the imagination. There is a danger that this defence is only theoretically available and then only in a perfect world. Continue reading

Case Law: “Gaunt v OFCOM – freedom of expression in broadcasting” – Dan Tench

On 13 July, Sir Anthony May, the President of the Queen’s Bench Division, and Mr Justice Blair handed down their judgment in R (Gaunt) v Ofcom.  The case concerned an explosive outburst by radio show host Jon Gaunt on his Talksport radio programme in November 2008.  Gaunt was interviewing Michael Stark, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services for Redbridge London Borough Council. Continue reading

Case Preview: Joseph v Spiller

On Monday 26 July and Tuesday 27 July 2010, the UK Supreme Court will hear the appeal in the “fair comment” case of Spiller v Joseph. This the first libel case to the heard by the Supreme Court.   This will be the first defamation case heard by the highest court since the decision of the House of Lords four years ago in Jameel v Wall Street Journal ([2006] UKHL 44).  Over the last 10 years of its existence the House of Lords only considered 6 mainstream defamation appeals.  The defence of fair comment was last considered by the House of Lords in Telnikoff v Matusevitch ([1992] 2 AC 343). Continue reading

US Freedom of Expression and Media Law Roundup 23 July 2010

A judge in Denver has ruled that a federal law making it illegal to lie about being a war hero is unconstitutional because it violates free speech. The case of USA v Rick Glen Strandlof, concerned a Colorado man who claimed he was an ex-Marine wounded in Iraq and had received the Purple Heart and Silver Star. The military had no record that Strandlof served.  He was charged with violating the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it illegal to falsely claim to have won a military medal. Continue reading

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