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.
There were two interesting settlements of libel actions last week. First, there was a statement in open court in the action brought by media lawyer Mark Lewis against Baroness Buscombe and the Press Complaints Commission (the Particulars of Claim can be found in a Jack of Kent blog post here).
Mr Lewis, who is also pursuing a libel action against the Metropolitan Police, told the Journalism.co.uk website:
“I am very satisfied that Baroness Buscombe and the PCC have accepted my claim and expressed regret for the consequences of what she said. My case continues against the Metropolitan Police who still defend the claim. Eventually the truth will come out from the Met and I will be fully vindicated.”
The Guardian quoted calls by former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott for Baroness Buscombe’s resignation
“Today’s humiliating apology by Lady Buscombe and the Press Complaints Commission exposes the sham of self-regulation for newspapers. The chair of a body that is supposed to enforce newspaper accuracy has had to apologise to the high court and settle a libel action prompted by her own misleading comments. The public has rightly lost all confidence in the PCC and I see no other option for Lady Buscombe but to resign her position immediately.”
The second settlement concerned a libel claim against the Spectator and the journalist Melanie Phillips. Ms Phillips wrote an article for the Spectator website entitled ‘Look What Came Crawling Out’, which alleged that British Muslim Initiative leader Mohammad Sawalha had made a reference to the “evil/noxious Jew in Britain” in an interview with Al Jazeera. Ms Phillips and the Spectator have now published a statement on the Spectator website, headed ‘Mohammad Sawalha: Apology’, referring to the article and stating
“We now accept that Mr Sawalha made no such anti-Semitic statement and that the article was based on a mistranslation elsewhere of an earlier report. We and Melanie Phillips apologise for the error.”
The case is discussed on the Tabloid Watch blog – pointing out that Melanie Phillips delayed for over 2 years before admitting her mistake. There are also news items on the 5 RB website and in the Guardian and the Press Gazette.
The High Court has held, that customers of news monitoring services must have a licence from newspapers to receive emailed material from clippings services. In her decision in the case of Newspaper Licensing Agency v Meltwater Holdings ( EWHC 3099 (Ch)), Proudman J held that using clippings services without a licence is copyright infringement. There is a comment on the case on the Outlaw website and discussion. There is a news report of the case in the Press Gazette – which also quotes the chief executive of Meltwater describing it as a disappointing decision.
Journalism and the PCC
The Media Standards Trust has produced an analysis of all PCC complaints since 1996 on a new website. This shows that the top publications for complaints are (unsurprisingly) the “Daily Mail” and the “Sun” with “inaccuracy” being by far the largest category of complaint. The new site enables users to access all complaints by date, provision of the Code or publication. It is an extremely useful resource for those who want to understand the way in which the PCC has operated.
Index on Censorship reports that the next round of “Wikileaks” material from the US Government – said to be diplomatic communications – has been made the subject of the so-called “D-Notice” procedure – editors being requested to inform the government before publication.
The website Mashable.com has an interesting story by Vadim Lavrusik on “How Investigative Journalism Is Prospering in the Age of Social Media”
“The socialization of the web is revolutionizing the traditional story format. Investigative reporters are now capturing content shared in the social space to enrich their stories, enabling tomorrow’s reporters to create contextualized social story streams that reference not only interviewed sources, but embedded tweets“
In the Courts
There were four media law related judgments this week, two in the Court of Appeal and two at first instance. In Berezovsky -v- Vladimir Terluk & anr ( EWCA Civ 1345) the Court of Appeal dismissed the application for permission to appeal by the defendant on the issue as to whether there should have been a jury trial and dismissed the appeal on the issue of whether there should have been an adjournment.
In Lykiaropulo v Lykiardopulo ( EWCA Civ 1315) the Court of Appeal removed the anonymity of the parties to ancillary relief proceedings in the Family Division after the judge who had heard the case, Baron J, had held that the the husband had conspired to manufacture documents for trial to hide the extent of his wealth. There is a 5RB case note.
In Daniels v BBC ( EWHC 3057 (QB)) Sharp J struck out a libel claim, inter alia, on the grounds that the allegations had not reached a sufficient threshold of seriousness. There is, again, a 5RB case note.
Media and Freedom of Expression Law in Other Jurisdictions
On September 22, 2010, Toronto Police Constable Adam Josephs launched a lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court: Adam Josephs v. YouTube et. al (2010) CV-10-410890 (Ont. Sup. Ct.). In the case Constable Josephs is suing YouTube for Can$1.25 million. He seeks damages for defamation of his reputation and disclosure of the identity of the YouTube user, ThePMOCanada, along with 24 other commentators whose accounts have since been disabled. The Canadian blog “The Court” has a post on this remarkable case.
In R. v. Gomboc, (2010 SCC 55), the Canadian Supreme considered the use of a digital recording ammeter to determine the electricity consumption of a private home with a digital recording ammeter (“DRA”) to form the basis for a search warrant related to a suspected marijuana growing operation. The majority held that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy in the DRA data because it revealed nothing about the intimate or core personal activities of the occupants. It was said to reveal nothing but one particular piece of information: the consumption of electricity. There is a post about the case on Brian Bowman’s blog.
In Dublin the libel action in Kathryn Nelson v Sunday World is being tried in the High Court in Dublin. The plaintiff claims that the words complained of meant that she was involved in laundering funds stolen from the IRA’s £26.5 million robbery of the Northern Bank in 2004. There are reports of the trial in the Irish Times on Thursday 25 November and Friday 26 November. The trial is continuing.
It is reported that, in the Solomon Islands, a local newspaper the “Island Sun” was ordered to pay a total of $75,000 in damages to a former prime minister and his secretary as a result of a front page article, an editorial, and a cartoon the paper published in 2008. It claimed that the plaintiffs got drunk and misbehaved while they were on an official trip to New York in September 2008.
David Rolph, University of Sydney Faculty of Law, has published “Publication, Innocent Dissemination and the Internet after Dow Jones & Co Inc v Gutnick” ( 33 University of New South Wales Law Journal 562). The article discusses the landmark decision of the the High Court of Australia’s in Dow Jones & Co Inc v Gutnick ( HCA 56) The article argues that, whilst internet technologies have brought about a revolution in communications, their legal impact in the context of internet defamation has been more modest but nevertheless important. Focusing on the issue of publication, this article argues that the challenges posed by internet technologies have compelled courts and legislatures to reconsider and refine the approaches adopted towards key concepts and issues of defamation law.
US Law and Media News
Once again, this will be the subject of a separate post.
No events have been reported to us.
The New Zealand Media Law Journal blog reproduces a post on invasions of privacy arising out of the media coverage of the Pike River mining disaster victims’ grief-stricken families emerging from the briefing where they were informed of their loved ones’ fate
Next Week in the Courts
The case of Freer v Routledge – another case involving “seasoned libel litigant” Leo Freer (see Freer v Zeb  EWHC 212 (QB)) – is listed to commence on 29 November 2010 before Mr Justice Maddison. The matter was stayed by Mrs Justice Sharp on 22 October 2010 but has now been listed for trial.
On Friday 3 December 2010 an application in the case of Smith v ADVN (No.9) will be heard by Mr Justice Tugendhat
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Clift v Slough BC heard 23 and 24 June 2010 (Ward, Thomas and Richards LJJ).
Bowker v Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, heard 21 October 2010 (Sharp J).
Cambridge v Makin, heard 8 to 12 November 2010 (Tugendhat J)
Pritchard Englefield & anr v Steinberg heard 19 November 2010 (Eady J)