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 begin with the impressive “Reframing Libel” event at the City University. This brought together campaigners, academics and practitioners in an atmosphere of cooperation and dialogue and produced some new and interesting ideas on the reform issues raised.
We have already posted a news report and part one of Hugh Tomlinson’s paper. Next week we will have further papers and a report on the revisiting of the intellectual foundations of libel law in the paper by Professor Mullis and Dr Scott. The papers from the event will be published in book form as well as on the event’s website.
This is the latest in a series of high quality law related events organised by the City University School of journalism – we have previously posted on Mr Justice Eady’s lecture to mark the opening of the “Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism” and the popular event “How far should a reporter go? The lessons of the News of the World phone hacking story”.
The anonymity order which Mr Justice Tugendhat decided to remove in the privacy case of JIH v News Group featured in many of the papers. The only reports which appear to have complied with the order are those by the Press Association Media Lawyer and the Times – neither of which can be linked to.
On November 4, 2010, the European Commission released a draft version of its Communication proposing “a comprehensive approach on personal data protection in the European Union” with a view to modernizing the EU legal system for the protection of personal data. This is discussed on the Privacy and Information Security Law Blog and on the Privacy Lives blog.
Journalism and the PCC
The Media Standards Trust has produced an interesting report entitled “The Shrinking World: the Decline of International Reporting in the British Press”. The press release is here and there is a post about the report on Martin Moore’s blog. The report shows that
In a working week in 1979 there were just over 500 international stories published in [the Telegraph, Guardian, Mail and Mirror]. By 2009 this had dropped to just over 300. The decline in international news as a proportion of each newspaper was even starker (because the papers have got bigger as international coverage has shrunk). So, in 1979 international news made up a fifth of each paper, on average. By 1989 this had fallen to 16%, by 1999 to 13% and by 2009 to 11%.
PCC Watch blog this week has a post suggesting that the PCC should record all breaches of the Code – including the cases where the complaint is resolved without a formal adjudication. It points out that in 2010, so far, 375 cases have been resolved but only 32 cases were adjudicated upon.
“If the PCC were to record breaches of the code as a matter of routine it would be able to state authoritatively which newspapers were best at complying with the code, which aspects of the code were observed best and worst and whether standards of compliance were improving or not. It would also reduce criticism that the PCC does not adjudicate often enough”.
The Five Chinese Crackers is instituting an award for “Tabloid Bullshit of the Month”. For the reasons explained on the blog, October’s winner was the story that “Mohammed is now the most popular name for baby boys ahead of Jack and Harry”, by Jack Doyle of the Daily Mail.
In the Courts
In the 7/7 inquest, the Coroner Lady Justice Hallett decided that she did not have the power to hold closed hearings at which evidence is called from which Interested Persons can be excluded that she did not have power to rely on intercept material under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 as evidence. Her ruling of 3 November 2010 can be found here.
Media and Freedom of Expression Law in Other Jurisdictions
In Hansen v. Tilley ( BCCA 482) the Court of Appeal of British Columbia upheld an award of damages of Can$30,000 for defamation arising from three articles published in “The Peak”, the Simon Fraser University student newspaper, and on The Peak website. The defence of “responsible communication” was rejected by the judge and this was upheld by the Court of Appeal. There was a proper evidentiary basis for the trial judge’s finding that the appellants failed to demonstrate the required standard of diligence in their attempts to contact the respondent and report his side of the story and to verify the reliability and status of their primary sources. A summary of the decision can be found here.
In Habib v Radio 2UE Sydney Pty Ltd  NSWDC 244 the NSW District Court dismissed an application to strike out a number of defamatory imputations.
In Trkulja v Google Inc & Anor (No 2)  VSC 490 the Supreme Court of Victoria struck out a number of defamatory imputations and ordered the provision of further particulars in a long running claim against Google.
The Cearta.ie blog has a post about the first reserved judgment under the Irish Defamation Act 2009. The judge granted a “declaratory order” in relation to defamatory allegations made against a convicted user of child pornography. The full judgment is not yet available.
The Press Gazette reports that on 3 November 2010 a British journalist Alan Shadrake was convicted of contempt by the High Court in Singapore over a book he wrote about the island Republic’s use of the death penalty.
US Law and Media News
Once again, this will be the subject of a separate post.
We draw attention to the Manchester University event on “Medical Law and Ethics in the Media Spotlight” at the British Academy on 8 and 9 November 2010
The US Citizen Media Law Project Blog has an interesting post entitled “When Art Imitates Life; Suing for Defamation in Fiction” dealing with some of the US case law on this topic.
The Strasbourg Observers blog has a post entitled “Press freedom + Russia = violation?” about the case of Saliyev v. Russia which decided that the decision of the editor of a newspaper to withdraw an edition containing allegations by the applicant was a violation of Article 10. There is an interesting critique of the decision, concluding that “Neither Russia’s bad reputation concerning press freedom nor the probably correct outcome of the case could be regarded as an excuse” for the poor reasoning.
Next Week in the Courts
There are three libel trials listed this week in the High Court in London.
First, in Court 14 Mr Justice Tugendhat is the trial judge in the judge alone case of Cambridge v Makin – claim arising out of the publication of several hundred emails. There are defences of justification and qualified privilege
Second, in Court 13, there is a Pre-Trial Review and then a jury trial, presided over by Mrs Justice Sharp, in the case of Ronaldo v Telegraph Media Ltd. [Update] A Statement in Open Court was read at 10.30am on 8 November 2010, indicating that Mr Ronaldo had accepted substantial damages from the Telegraph (see the BBC News here and the Statement in Open Court is here). This means that there has still not been a libel jury trial since July 2009 in London.
Third, in Court 11, what appears to be a judge alone trial in the case of Wyatt v Cartwright, is listed before Sir Charles Gray. We understand that the case concerns a claim by a former employee of AA Hotels against her former manager in respect of allegations which were subsequently considered by an Employment Tribunal. [Update 2] The background can be found in this article in the Caterer in January 2009. We understand from Mr Benjamin Pell that this case settled at midday on 8 November 2010.
[Update] Mr Justice Tugendhat handed down judgment in the case of Ifedha v Archant Regional Ltd at 10.30am on 8 November 2010.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Clift v Slough BC heard 23 and 24 June 2010 (Ward, Thomas and Richards LJJ).
Spiller v Joseph heard 26 and 27 July 2010 (Lords Phillips, Rodger, Walker and Brown and Sir John Dyson).
Bowker v Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, heard 21 October 2010 (Sharp J).