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.
The most important case of the week was Monday’s “anonymity” decision of the Court of Appeal in the JIH case. Edward Craven’s Inforrm post about the decision attracted a record number of hits. Unfortunately, neither the decision itself nor this post appears to have been read by many journalists who produced characteristically inaccurate and one-sided analyses of the case the following day (see our post here). The “Daily Mail” is at the forefront here, its classic “fury” and “growing anger” piece being complemented by a curious diatribe from its City Editor Alex Brummer on “Greed, offensive sums of money and how football’s coarsening Britain“. This is a familiar castigation of boorish and overpaid footballers who
“believe that sexual licentiousness is their right and readily partake in drink or drug-fuelled orgies. Then, when details of such degrading behaviour emerges, they behave like disgraced film stars, business magnates and politicians, and pay expensive lawyers to obtain court injunctions to stop the stories being made public. Invariably, their aim is to seek to hide their true, unpleasant characters in order to protect the value of their lucrative personal sponsorships, which they otherwise would lose. They are abetted by the courts and by unelected judges who have enthusiastically sought to create a new law of privacy. Quite wrongly, this has shielded these so-called role models from public ridicule and disgust”.
Mr Brummer appeared on the BBC “Big Questions” programme (see iPlayer, at 24 minutes) claiming that there are two dozen super injunctions “out there”, some relating to matters which “in the past would have been called orgies”. Baroness Ashfar suggested “The question is not about football but what happens to that money and when that money enables you to bypass the laws of the land, then I have very serious problems”.
In the interests of balance we should point out that although privacy cases are now usually the subject of public judgments the protection of sponsorship agreements has only been mentioned in one case – Terry v Persons Unknown where it was a matter of untested judicial inference rather than being proved. In general privacy cases are about, well, privacy – not sponsorship. Similarly, none of privacy judgments have involved what “in the past would have been called orgies” – they usually involve kissing and telling, often with blackmail thrown in. Finally, injunctions are used not to “bypass the laws of the land” but rather, to enforce them – if significant criminality was being covered up then an injunction application would, inevitably, fail.
The phone hacking saga continues. We have already posted on the evidence released by the Home Affairs Select Committee. It seems likely that more material will come out as this investigation continues. It is suggested by Dan Sabbagh in the “Guardian” that News International has adopted new, high risk, strategy of limited admission, coupled with an attempt to spread the blame elsewhere – arguing that several other papers were engaged in hacking too. He also has a post about an attempt to suggest that the “Evening Standard” is also implicated. The issue is also discussed on the Greenslade Blog where it is suggested that News International has moved from the dark arts to dirty tricks. In the old phrase, “this one will run and run”.
The “Guardian” has played a leading role in the exposure of the activities of the “News of the World”. However, its now sister publication the “Observer” was implicated in the earlier “Operation Motorman” investigation into “blagging” by private investigators. The Journalism.co.uk website has an interesting item about how the “Observer” is seeking to distinguish Operaton Motorman from phone hacking.
Finally on this topic (for this week), Peter Preston writes in the “Observer” on the subject of “PCC editors failed to sound the phone-hacking alarm” discussing the role of that body in investigating phone hacking issues.
David Allen Green has an interesting piece on his New Statesman blog about the fact that WikiLeaks appears to be threatening legal action over the serialization in the Guardian of WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy.
The local Argus newspaper has a fuller report of a libel case we have already mentioned – between former Eastbourne MP Nigel Waterson and his successor Stephen Lloyd arising out of an election leaflet.
The FT reports that Adam Lucas, formerly owner of People Loans, has commenced libel proceedings against the FSA, alleging he was libelled by a decision notice cancelling his regulatory permissions. There is also a report about the case in Money Marketing.
Journalism and the PCC
The Press Gazette reports on the formation of the new PCC Phone Hacking working group. This was discussed by Martin Moore in a post earlier this week.
The PCC Watch blog publishes an open letter sent to Baroness Buscombe about the settlement of the libel action brought against her by the solicitor Mark Lewis. The letter seeks clarification of three questions by Baroness Buscombe
1. Did you and/or the PCC agree to pay damages to Mark Lewis to settle his libel suit against each of you?
2. If so, how much were the damages?
3. Did you concede that the comments you made about Lewis at the Society if Editors conference 2009 were misleading?
We await the answers with interest.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There was a Statement in Open Court in Northern Ireland when “Times Newspapers” apologised to a High Court Judge, Mr Justice Seamus Treacy, over an article which appeared in March 2010 and agreed to pay damages and costs.
We are not aware of any Statements in Open Court or published apologies in libel actions in England and Wales this week.
In the Courts
We already mentioned the judgment of the Court of Appeal in JIH v News Group. There were hearings in the cases of Hunt v Evening Standard (3 February) and Lord Ashcroft v Independent (3-4 February). Judgment was reserved in both cases.
Media and Freedom of Expression Law in Other Jurisdictions
In Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Canada (Attorney General), 2011 SCC 2 the Supreme Court of Canada held that Court rules which prohibited filming, photography and interviews in the public areas of courthouses and the broadcast of the official audio recordings of court proceedings were constitutional. The measures advnced the pressing and substantial objectives of maintaining the fair administration of justice by ensuring the serenity of hearings. The fair administration of justice is necessarily dependent on maintaining order and decorum in and near courtrooms and on protecting the privacy of litigants appearing before the courts. There is no question that this objective contributes to maintaining public confidence in the justice system. The Factums (Skeleton Arguments) can be found here. There is a post about the decision on the Court blog.
In Malaysia the Information Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim Wednesday obtained an injunction from the High Court to compel a blogger to remove a defamatory article against him in a blog. Judge Datin Zabariah Mohd Yusof, in granting Dr Rais application, ordered Amizudin Ahmat, or his agents, to remove the libelous words or article and photograph of Dr Rais from his blog, sharpshooterblogger.blogspot.com.
In Ireland, it is reported that the independent deputy for North Tipperary Michael Lowry has failed in his application for summary judgment in the Circuit Court in a defamation case where he claimed journalist Sam Smyth had accused him of being a thief.
US Law and Media News
Once again, this will be the subject of a separate post (the post for January 2011 is coming soon).
Events and Television
No events have been reported to us for the forthcoming week. [Update] On television, the Channel 4, “Dispatches” programme at 8.00pm on 7 February 2011 is entitled “Tabloids’ Dirty Secrets” and “charts the unfolding events in the phone hacking scandal”.
The Mediapal@LSE blog has a post entitled “Ordinary person v. The Press’: the unmentioned ‘other problem’ with libel law” highlighting the case of Juliet Shaw, told under the title “A true story of Daily Mail lies“.
The Meeja Law “Mid Week Media Mop Up” (moved from Mondays) can be found here.
We have been intending for some time to draw attention to Steven Baxter’s New Statesman blog – which involves him “Patrolling the Murkier Waters of the Mainstream Media”. He is, perhaps, more familiar as Anton Vowl of the “Enemies of Reason” media blog – well worth reading in both capacities.
Next Week in the Courts
On Monday 7 February 2011, Mr Justice Tugendhat will give judgment in McKeown v Attheraces Ltd, heard 20-21 January 2011.
On Wednesday 9 February 2011, the Court of Appeal will give judgment in Brady v Norman which was heard on 19 January 2011 by The President of the Queen’s Bench Division, Smith and Aikens LJJ.
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)
Hunt v Evening Standard heard 3 February 2011 (Tugendhat J)
Ashcroft v Independent News and Media Ltd heard 3 and 4 February 2011 (Eady J)