In this regular feature we draw attention to the last week’s law and media news and next week’s upcoming events. If readers have any news or events which they would like to draw attention to please add them by way of comments on this post. We are particularly interested in forthcoming events.
The House of Lords debate on the Second Reading of Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill on 9 July 2010 received wide coverage. We had a post on it with the full transcript and the debate from BBC Parliament TV. The media were, unsurpisingly, positive about the Government’s reaction. According to the Daily Mail there are to be “New Laws to Protect Freedom of the Press”. The Telegraph tells us that Britain’s ‘draconian libel laws’ are to be reformed.
It was interesting that, in his response to the debate, Lord Lester said
I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, that the problem of libel tourism has been greatly exaggerated
This view is not shared by his supporters in the Libel Reform Campaign who still regard his bill as a way of dealing with the problem of libel tourism
In the Guardian Law Podcast, Afua Hirsch discusses libel reform and footballers contracts with Gavin Millar QC and Dominic Crossley, Stephen Sampson and Catherine Baksi.
The interesting press coverage of the Supreme Court’s asylum decision in HJ (Iran) has been the subject of some analysis on the blogs. Reader will be aware that the Court decided that gay asylum seekers who risked persecution could not be expected to avoid it by hiding their sexuality. The case is discussed on the UK Human Rights blog. The tabloid press were not persuaded: the Daily Express’ headline was “Now asylum if you’re gay” while the Daily Mail had the headline “Supreme Court Judge says homosexual asylum seekers should be allowed to stay because ‘gays must be free to enjoy Kylie concerts and cocktails‘. The tabloid misrepresentation of the decision is incisively analysed by Tabloid Watch while Enemies of Reason has a trenchant post entitled “It’s worth bothering to get angry at Express scum”
The Information Commissioner has issued his office’s official Personal Information Online Code of Practice on privacy and data protection on the internet, following a consultation and summary of responses. it is available as an interactive e-book with graphics. Launching the new code at a data protection conference, Commissioner Christopher Graham said,
“the benefits of the internet age are clear: the chance to make more contacts, quicker transactions and greater convenience. But there are risks too. A record of our online activity can reveal our most personal interests. Get privacy right and you will retain the trust and confidence of your customers and users; mislead consumers or collect information you don’t need and you are likely to diminish customer trust and face enforcement action from the ICO.”
The following material is available from the ICO:
- Personal information online code of practice, Information Commissioner’s Office, July 2010
- Personal information online – small business checklist, Information Commissioner’s Office, July 2010
- Protecting your personal information online, Information Commissioner’s Office, July 2010 – short guide for individual consumers.
In the Courts
The Guardian reported that an order had been agreed in privacy proceedings brought by Jude Law against his former wife Sadie Frost. She agreed to remove certain passages and photographs of their children from a forthcoming autobiography. Mr Justice Tugendhat granted an injunction by consent.
On 9 July 2010 Mr Justice Stadlen began hearing a strike out application in the case of Kaschke v Gray, (see judgment  EWHC 690 (QB)). The claim is brought by Conservative blogger Johanna Kaschke against Labour bloggers Alex Hilton and John Gray. She discusses the case on her blog. The defendants have attracted support from MEP Mary Honeyball on her blog – which has, in turn, led to a protest from Ms Kaschke. [Update] There is a post about this application on the Jack of Kent blog.
From the Blogs
The Cearta.ie blog has an interesting post on February’s decision of the Court of Human Rights that it was a breach of Article 10 for Turkey to ban a pornographic novel by the poet Appollinaire. This was the subject of a post on this blog in April.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Simpson J gave judgment for the plaintiff in Rastogi v Nolan  NSWSC 735 awarding damages of Aus$65,000 and an injunction restraining the defendant from publishing any statements concerning the plaintiff to the effect that he is reckless, negligent or dishonest in his profession as a cosmetic surgeon.
In Chetwynd v Armidale Dumaresq Council  NSWSC 690 the defendant Council won a defamation action brought by its former mayor. In a 332 paragraph judgment James J upheld the majority of defences pleaded – truth, comment and qualified privilege – both statutory and common law and the claim was dismissed.
In Abdullah Ahmadi v Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd Rothman J ordered the defendant to pay the plaintiff US$7,500 damages in respect of an allegation that he was a people smuggler. But the degree to which his reputation had been damaged was “extremely limited” on account of the extortion claims which had been proved in an earlier criminal trial. There is a news report in the Australian.
In Supreme Auto Group Inc. v. Toronto (Police Services Board), 2010 ONSC 3803 the court dismissed defamation claims against the police arising from a press conference on the basis that the words bore no defamatory meaning.
In the case of Trustco International v Shikongo (Judgment of 7 July 2010), the Supreme Court of Namibia reduced the record defamation judgement of N$175 000 in favour of Windhoek Mayor Matheus Shikongo against the Informanté weekly tabloid, its editor and its printer to N$100 000. This important case is the subject of an earlier post.
US Law and Media News
Once again, this will be the subject of a separate post.
On 15 July 2010 there will be an Inforrm/MBL Seminar on Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill (see our post here)
Next Week in the Courts
On 12 July 2010 Mr Justice Stadlen continues the hearing of the application to strike out in the case of Kaschke v Gray, which is discussed above.
Judgment in the case of Flood v Times Newspapers Limited, which was heard on 25 and 26 May 2010 by the Master of the Rolls, Moore-Bick and Moses LJJ will be given on 13 July 2010.
The following reserved judgments in media and related cases remain outstanding:
Imerman v Tchenguiz (and linked appeals), heard 10 to 11 May 2010 (Master of the Rolls, Moses and Munby LJJ)
Ambrosiadou v Coward, heard 21, 22 June and 8 July 2010 (Eady J)
Clift v Slough BC heard 23 and 24 June 2010 (Ward, Thomas and Richards LJJ).