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.
On Tuesday 11 January 2010, the Court of Human Rights will hear Max Mosley’s application against the United Kingdom in which he contends that positive obligation under Article 8 means that there should be a legal requirement that the press notify individuals in advance if their privacy is invaded. The Court’s Press Release is here.
Details about the case can be found in our Table of Forthcoming Cases. Joshua Rozenberg has written about the forthcoming hearing in the “Guardian”. The Press Gazette reports the slightly surprising view of Caroline Kean of Wiggin & Co that Mr Mosley’s contention that the law should require advance notice of publications which interfere with private life is
“totally unrealistic and will put an enormous burden on the media … There will be a radically different press if he is successful with a lot of the colour taken away. We would see papers folding because they can’t afford the legal costs. I hate to say it but it would imperil investigative journalism.”
On the other side, the Press Gazette quotes Mr Mosley’s solicitor, Dominic Crossley as saying
“Proper investigative journalism should not be affected, unlawful sex exposés should be…There needs to be a proper practical remedy for privacy rights that works. This is particularly needed in the UK where tabloid intrusions into sex lives are more severe and extensive than anywhere else in Europe. At the moment the editor/journalist with an unlawful sex exposé can simply circumvent the individual’s only chance to protect his or her privacy by concealing the intention to publish. This should not continue. No court can remove the information from the public mind once it has been published. The damage is done and it is permanent.”
Following Nick Clegg’s speech on 7 January 2010 (see our post here) the “Guardian” had an Editorial entitled “Libel Reform: A good start” suggesting his proposals are “a good and liberal start”. This has attracted number of negative comments on the “Guardian” website with the doughty sceptic “NotaTrot” suggesting that “The Guardian is an unequivocal force for evil on this topic”. He also comments on Gill Phillips’ piece “While avoiding specifics Nick Clegg makes the right sounds on libel reform“.
Other news. In a story based on an Inforrm post the Press Gazette reports that 2010 was the first year without a jury trial, drawing attention to the failed attempt by the claimant in Fiddes to obtain a jury trial.
It is reported that the former Labour Defence Secretary has commenced libel proceedings against the Daily Mail over a story accusing him of being personally responsible for the failure to rescue a British couple kidnapped by Somali pirates. The same newspaper is also reported to be the subject of a libel action by Lily Safra claiming that she was labelled her a fortune hunter who inherited vast sums when two rich husbands died in mysterious circumstances.
The Collyer Bristow website has an interesting piece by Alex Cochrane on “The Dewani’s, Contempt and the Global Challenges of New Media” considering the coverage of the Dewani case in the press and the discussions on Facebook concluding
The challenges created by social networking sites are well known, but it is the online publication of national newspapers and their now global reach which most tests a contempt law that harks back to a simpler age of print newspapers. The Dewani case is a horrendous one, whatever the outcome, but the coverage in the English media to date does not appear to be helping the administration of justice.
Journalism and the PCC
The press coverage of the Jo Yeates’ murder continues to be the subject of interesting discussion in the media blogs. The Angry Mob blog argues that
Recent events have demonstrated once again that the tabloid media have no morals, no integrity and absolutely no journalistic values between them. The treatment of Chris Jefferies was absolutely disgusting
The Enemies of Reason blog follows its excellent post on “Chris Jeffries and Trial by Media” with an update on “Facebook and Psychics”. The Tabloid Watch blog also has a blog on the “psychic” angle, entitled “Stars latest source for a front page exclusive: a psychic ”
The Five Chinese Crackers blog has a post looking forward to “What’s coming in 2011?” in the tabloids. We look forward to this blog’s “Tabloid Bullshit of the Month” awards for 2011.
Over the break we have missed three posts on the consistently interesting PCC Watch blog, The first draws an interesting comparison between the PCC’s approach to Rod Liddle and Richard Littlejohn. The second, considers the rumours that the Daily Star is considering withdrawing from the Press Complaints Commission suggesting that the PCC would be better off without that newspapers. The most recent post concerns the recent change to the code relating to agreement of the prominence of corrections. This blog is a valuable resource for everyone interested in the PCC and media self-regulation and we commend its posts to our readers.
In the Courts
There is a comment on the R (Guardian News and Media) v City of Westminster Magistrates ( EWHC 3376 (Admin)) on access to documents in criminal cases by Nigel Hanson of Foot Anstey on “Hold the Front Page”
The Independent has a discussion of another, as yet unreported, “phone hacking” case, Gray v News Group.
Media and Freedom of Expression Law in Other Jurisdictions
The Australian courts handed down in a number of judgments in defamation cases in the period immediately before Christmas.
As usual, the highest level of activity was in New South Wales. In Manefield v Child Care NSW ( NSWSC 1420) a former childcare executive whose name was blackened by an association trying to stifle competition was awarded Aus$150,000 There is a news story about the case in the Sydney Morning Herald. In Lakaev v Denny  NSWSC 1480 Fullerton J refused to extend the limitation period for a libel claim against a blogger. In Palace Films Pty Ltd v Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd ( NSWSC 1486) McCallum J struck out a number of imputations arising out of an article Australian Financial Review newspaper on 15 July 2009.
There were two judgments in South Australia. In Sands v The State of South Australia ( SASC 340) the Supreme Court considered an application for a stay on the grounds of public interest immunity in an action for libel and misfeasance arising out of statements made in the course of a murder investigation. A stay was ordered in respect of the misfeasance claim.
In Duffy v Trendowen ( SADC 152) the District Court of South Australia awarded damages of Aus$13,000 in respect of statements at a meeting of a District Council by the defendant alleging that the plaintiffs, as members of the previous Council, were corrupt. The damages were substantially mitigated by a number of apologies.
In Gunston v Davies Brothers Pty Ltd & Ors  TASSC 65 the Supreme Court of Tasmania ordered a trial by judge alone of a libel action on the ground that it required the “prolonged examination of documents”.
In Canada on 7 December 2010, the Supreme Court heard the “hyperlink” libel case of Crookes v Newton (see our Table of Forthcoming Cases). The Case Summary is here and there is a webcast of the hearing. Judgment was reserved. There is a news report of the hearing here.
In Wilson v. Lougheed (2010 BCSC 1868) the Supreme Court of British Columbia considered an application for an order that a journalist disclose the identity of a source. Having considered the “Wigmore” criteria, the judge ordered disclosure.
The Canadian Privacy Law Blog has a review of privacy law in Canada I n 2010. The Canadian “Entertainment and Media Law Signal” has a post on the “Top 10 Canadian Entertainment and Media Law Stories”
In New Zealand, the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in Leigh v Attorney-General in respect of the Ministry of Environment ( NZCA 624) allowing, in part, an appeal in a libel action arising out of a briefing prepared in order to answer a Parliamentary Question. The case raises some interesting issues and we hope to provide a case comment shortly.
In South Africa, it is reported that President Jacob Zuma (is suing Avusa Media for defamation with damage of R5 million for publishing a cartoon, depicting him preparing to rape Lady Justice which was published on 7 September 2008.
US Law and Media News
Once again, this will be the subject of a separate post.
Events and TV
On Tuesday 11 January 2011 there is the Inforrm, Media Standards Trust, Gray’s Inn event “Libel Reform: in the Public’s Interest?” This a subject of a post here. We have a dozen free tickets to offer to Inforrm readers – on a first come, first served basis. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Thursday 13 January 2011 there is the postponed Tonight special on super-injunctions: “Can you keep a secret?“.
Judith Townend’s consistently interesting Meeja Law blog has started, on a trial basis, a “Monday Media Mop Up” – in which she draws attention to a number of interesting media stories in the previous week. In response to the query at the outset of the post, yes we do think its useful.
Next Week in the Courts
The new legal term begins on Tuesday 11 January 2011. It seems likely that a number of judgments left over from last term will be handed down this week, including Cambridge v Makin heard 8 to 12 November 2010 by Tugendhat J.
On Friday 14 January 2011, the Master of the Rolls, Wilson and Toulson LJJ will hear the appeals of the claimant in the privacy anonymity cases of JIH v News Group (No.1) ( EWHC 2818 (QB)) and (No. 2) ( EWHC 2979 (QB)).
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Bowker v Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, heard 21 October 2010 (Sharp J).
Pritchard Englefield & anr v Steinberg heard 19 November 2010 (Eady J)
Wallis & anr v Meredith heard 29 November and 1 December 2010 (Christopher Clarke J)