This is a weekly Media Law Update prepared by the Legal Information Team at Matrix Chambers, which they have kindly agreed to make available to readers of Inforrm.

Latest Cases

Gözel & Özer v. Turkey  (App Nos. 43453/04 & 31098/05), ECtHR – 6 Jul 2010,  Virtually automatic convictions of the media for publication of texts by banned organisations breached ECHR, arts 6, 10.  For ECtHR press release, click here. (judgment available in French only)

Mariopori v Finland (App No 37751/07), ECtHR -6 July 2010.  Criminal convictions for defamation following the publication of a book in which Ms Mariapori, a tax expert, accused a tax inspector of perjury in tax fraud proceedings and received a 4 month conditional prison sentence.  The severity of the sanction meant there was a violation of Article 10.

Henderson v Hackney London Borough Council & Anor [2010] EWHC 1651 (QB), QBD – 6 Jul 2010. The claimant claimed damages for libel in respect of the words contained in a referral letter sent by the second defendant company notifying a third party of the claimant’s dismissal from her employment. She sought to defeat the defence of qualified privilege on grounds of malice. In order for a claimant to succeed in proving malice, it was necessary both to plead and prove facts which were more consistent with the presence of malice than with its absence. As a matter of pleading practice, allegations of malice had to go beyond that which was equivocal or merely neutral: there had to be something from which a jury, ultimately, could infer malice in the sense that the relevant person was either dishonest in making the defamatory communication or had a dominant motive to injure the claimant.

Wright v Gregson & Ors [2010] EWHC 1629 (QB), QBD – 1 Jul 2010.  The third respondent newspaper publisher applied for a ruling on meaning in a libel action. The words complained of in the first and second articles, taken as a whole, could not be taken as defamatory of the claimant in the sense of which he complained. Although, as accepted by the publisher, the headlines if read in isolation could be taken as suggesting that the claimant was planning to use charitable funds for his own purposes, the reasonable reader was to be taken as having read the article as a whole. When that was done, it became apparent that the property in question was to be used as a retreat for sick children and that although the claimant and his family would be living there, rent would be paid to the charity. There was no suggestion that this was not an arm’s length arrangement or that the rent was not a fair one. However, the third and fourth articles were capable of bearing the defamatory meanings alleged. It would be wrong to ignore the allegations complained of in the article that the fundraisers in question were working “under” the claimant as that was capable of conveying the notion that they worked at his direction and that he was responsible for their behaviour. Secondly, the allegation was that the respondents could “reveal” certain matters, which the reader might reasonably take to be established fact. One of those matters was that the fundraisers in question actually carried out unlicensed street collections. With regard to the fourth article, it could not be confidently said that a reasonable reader would distance the claimant from the allegations in the article having regard to the content of the headline alongside his photograph and when the unlicensed street collections were said to have been carried out “under” him.

Statements in Open Court

Henry v Haringey London Borough Council, QBD – 1 Jul 2010,  Made in proceedings for defamation following the publication of a false statement on a local authority website which referred to the claimant social worker. LTL 1/7/2010.  For Case Report, please visit: Lawtel

Latest Regulatory Decisions

Latest decision of the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Decision Notices from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Latest decisions of the First-tier Tribunal, General Regulatory Chamber [Information Rights]

Recent Developments

Data protection laws: chance to have your say Ministry of Justice,  Consultation – 6 Jul 2010.  Notes that the Ministry of Justice is issuing a Call for Evidence on current data protection legislation, asking for views on how the European Directive and the Data Protection Act are working, the impact of data protection on individuals and business, and whether the current powers and penalties of the Information Commissioner could be strengthened. This comes ahead of the negotiations on a new EU data protection instrument.  Consultation ends: 6 Oct 2010

METRO publishers go to court over spoof issue by METR0 publishers Roy Greenslade, The Guardian – 5 Jul 2010, Reports that Associated Newspaper’s lawyers have taken legal action against the fake METR0 distributors, a group called PressAction that appears to be linked to Indymedia UK, which describes itself as “a network of individuals, independent and alternative media activists and organisations, offering grassroots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage of important social and political issues.” Both Press Action and Indymedia carry identical reports stating that the publication of METR0 was part of a two-day protest against racist and anti-migrant bias in the mainstream media.


Speak no evil Paul Denham (Birmingham City University),  Solicitors Journal S.J. (2010) Vol.154 No.26 pgs.12-13, Reviews the law on contempt, discussing several cases, the Contempt of Court Act 1981, and the competing right to freedom of expression under the ECHR, art 10.