Law and Media Round Up – 23 April 2012

23 04 2012

It’s a big week coming up at the Leveson Inquiry, with appearances from the media owners: Aidan Barclay, Evgeny Lebedev, James Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch. “Plenty to talk about here,” Murdoch Snr has tweeted since arriving in the UK. “Ten lively energetic newspapers to consume.

In this piece, the journalist Deborah Orr explores how Murdoch has ‘set the tone’ at his British tabloids. Just in time for Murdoch’s visit, Tom Watson MP has released his new book, co-written with journalist Martin Hickman, Dial M for Murdoch. Inforrm reproduced a preface here, and an extract can be found on Independent.co.uk.

The PA reports that police in North Wales are investigating claims that the woman raped by footballer Ched Evans “has been named and abused on a social networking site“. As a rape victim, she has the legal right to lifelong anonymity. According to the report, Holly Dustin, director of the End Violence Against Women coalition, and Rape Crisis England and Wales, said:

This raises serious questions about the adequacy of the criminal justice system to deal with offences that occur online and we are calling for an urgent review of laws and practices“.

The full judgment in the libel case of McGrath & Anor v Dawkins & Ors which was handed down on 30 March 2012 is now available ([2012] EWHC B3 (QB)). Chris McGrath brought a libel claim against blogger Vaughan Jones over comments made on Amazon.co.uk and on an internet forum said to be run by a UK body, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.  The claim against Amazon was struck out. The claim against the Foundation was struck out after it offered a limited undertaking. The claims for damages against Jones was struck out but the Judge was prepared to allow the action to continue “for the purpose of injunctive relief against republication” of certain allegations, unless an undertaking not to repeat was offered. Mr Jones has offered the undertaking. Inforrm published a case comment here.

There a several major phone hacking developments to report. Cases involving four journalists and seven others have been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS said it is “unable to give any timescale for charging decisions, except to say that these cases are being considered very carefully and thoroughly, and the decisions will be made as soon as is practicable“. Inforrm reports here.

Last week the Sun’s royal editor was arrested by police investigating alleged illegal payments to police and public officials, along with a former member of the armed forces, 42, and a woman, 38. They were all released on bail, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, there are 46 civil claims being pursued against News International, as revealed in last week’s ’round two’ Case Management Conference before Vos J. The court heard that the Metropolitan Police had revised the number of “likely victims” from 829 to 1,174. Over in the States, London-based solicitor Mark Lewis is working with Norman Siegel of Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans LLP and Steven Hyman of McLaughlin & Stern LLP to look into allegations of phone hacking in the US.

At the time of writing 126 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion, calling for Northern Ireland Attorney General to drop the contempt of court action he is bringing against former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain and Biteback Publishing, over a passage in his memoir. The motion, tabled by David Davis MP, calls for an “end [to] this serious attack on free speech by withdrawing the proceedings for contempt; further asserts the fundamental right of hon. Members to express their views responsibly without fear of judicial censorship; and invites Mr Speaker to consider what action the House might take to defend its rights against such attacks“. PA Media Lawyer reports here (subscription required).

At Monday 23 April 2012, Mr Justice Tugendhat will begin hearing the adjourned trial in the case of Trimingham v Associated Newspapers. Inforrm previews the case here.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

On Thursday 19 April 2012 there was a Statement in Open Court in the case Richard Williams v Anova Books. The claimant, Richard Williams, is the chief sports writer for the Guardian and also a well-known music journalist throughout and since the 1970s, including as the editor of Melody Maker from 1978-1980 and freelance rock and jazz critic for The Times.

According to the statement in open court, the claimant sued for libel over an allegation in The History of the NME by Pat Long, published in February 2012:

The book included a passage that re-told an incident in 1977 when Mark Williams, a candidate for the position of [NME] editor, was arrested for drug possession. As a result, the magazine’s parent company, IPC no longer considered him for the editorship. Regrettably, the book wrongly named the Claimant as the person who had been arrested.

“In light of the fact that the Claimant was a well-known music journalist at the time the incident occurred and is called Richard Williams, some readers of the book will have concluded that it refers to him. The incident recalled is of a nature which is highly embarrassing for the Claimant and has caused considerable distress. The Claimant has never been arrested and has no criminal record. He did not work for NME and was never discarded by the IPC as a possible editor for the magazine.”

Jeremy Clarke-Williams, Russell Jones Walker, acted for the claimant. David Price Solicitors & Advocates acted for the defendant, which publicly apologised to the Claimant. It was agreed that Anova Books would rectify the error, undertake not to repeat it and pay a substantial sum in damages as well as the Claimant’s legal costs.

Journalism and regulation

Ian Carter, editorial director of the Kent Messenger Group, has joined the PCC as an editorial member to replace Simon Reynolds (former Editorial Director of the Lancashire Evening Post) who is retiring from the body. There are no new adjudicated complaints to report this week, but several resolved.

This included a Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) complaint from the Samaritans, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Sane and PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide, against the Sun over column by Jeremy Clarkson about rail suicide. The Samaritans saidit was felt the column’s use of imagery and tone violated the dignity of people who had died by suicide and intruded into the grief of their families“.

Following a meeting between the charity and the Sun, the newspaper accepted “notwithstanding the right of its columnist to hold a view that others strongly opposed” …. “that parts of the column had overstepped the mark and apologised for the offence caused” and will undergo training in reporting suicide. The Samaritans media guidelines can be found at this link.

The full list of resolved complaints from last week:

Mr Peter Reynolds v The Mail on Sunday, Clause 1, 20/04/2012; Samaritans, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Sane and PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide v The Sun, Clause 5, 19/04/2012; Mr Adam Stephens v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 19/04/2012; Mr Peter Reynolds v Harborough Mail, Clause 1, 19/04/2012; Mrs Drene Brown v Scunthorpe Telegraph, Clause 1, 19/04/2012; A woman v Hastings and St Leonards Observer, Clause 1, 19/04/2012; Tracey Soares v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 19/04/2012; Geoff Hoskins v The Daily Telegraph, Clauses 1, 5, 19.04.2012.

The Pulitzer Prizes 2012 were announced last week, which included the Huffington Post’s first win, for military correspondent David Wood, awarded the nation reporting prize for ‘Beyond the Battlefield‘, “his riveting exploration of the physical and emotional challenges facing American soldiers severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan during a decade of war“. AFP also won the agency’s first prize, for Massoud Hossaini’s “heartbreaking image of a girl crying in fear after a suicide bomber’s attack at a crowded shrine in Kabul” [image/report]. In this piece for the Guardian, Emily Bell, professor of professional practice at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and a Pulitzer juror 2011/2012, comments on the significance of the HuffPo win.

ProPublica reports how owners or sister companies of media organisations including NBC News, ABC News, Fox News, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Politico, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other local TV news outlets are “lobbying against a Federal Communications Commission measure to require broadcasters to post political ad data on the internet“.

International journalists are reporting problems from Bahrain, where the F1 Grand Prix has been held despite protests and concerns about human rights within the country. Bahrain Center for Human Rights, winner of the Advocacy prize at this year’s Index Freedom of Expression Awards, has reported the arrest of the Channel 4 Foreign Affairs team and the arrest of two Japanese journalists. Channel 4 News has made a statement here. The Telegraph’s Colin Freeman described how he was also temporarily detained while travelling with his translator Mohammed Hasan, who had just been released from custody that morning, “having been arrested and beaten up while accompanying journalists to a demonstration on Friday“.

Research & resources

A reminder that readers can search the Index on Censorship literary archive for free until 4 May, to mark its 40th anniversary.

A new book Privacy Injunctions and the Media: A Practice Manual by Iain Goldrein QC has been published. More here.

Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), has published interim guidelines, which have immediate effect, “on the approach prosecutors should take when assessing the public interest in cases affecting the media“. An interim consultation period opened on 18 April and closes on 10 July 2012.

In the Courts

On Thursday 19 April 2012 there was the second pre-trial review (PTR) in the libel case of Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire.

On the same day Tugendhat J heard the defendant’s application in the case of CVB v MGN Ltd to remove the claimant’s anonymity.

On Friday 20 April 2012, there was the widely reported second Case Management Conference in Round Two of the Voicemail Interception litigation before Vos J.

On the same day there was an application before Slade J in the case of WXY v Gewanter, heard in private and an ex tempore ruling by HHJ Moloney QC in the libel case of Kim v Park (due for trial before a judge and jury on 8 October 2012).

An appeal was lodged last week in the case of Cairns v Modi.

Events

25 April 2012, 2.30-3.30pm: Media Freedom on the Internet: a round table discussion in Strasbourg, Meeting Room 5, Palais d’Europe, Strasbourg.

25 April 2012: IBC Legal’s 19th Annual, Defamation & Privacy 2012, Crowne Plaza Hotel London – The City.

30 April 2012, 6.30pm: Lessons for Leveson: What can we learn from press regulation elsewhere? Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Royal Society of Arts, London.

9 May 2012, 6.30pm: LSE Public Conversation – Dial M for Murdoch with Tom Watson MP and Martin Hickman (chair: Damian Tambini). London School of Economics.

17 May 2012, 6pm: Rally for Media Reform – The Coordinating Committee for Media Reform, in conjunction with the Hacked Off campaign, Westminster Central Hall.

12 June 2012, all day: The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ and Beyond: Data Protection and Freedom of Expression in the Age of Web 2.0, Oxford Privacy Information Law and Society, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford University.

Know of any media law events happening in May / June? Please let Inforrm know: inforrmeditorial@gmail.com.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Scotland: In a reportedly legal first, STV was allowed to film the sentencing remarks in a murder trial in the High Court in Edinburgh, which were shown online and used by other broadcasters. The BBC reported, however, that it does not signal that courts will be opened to cameras frequently, according to a Scottish courts service spokesperson.

United States: Inforrm has published a new US freedom of expression round up, its first since November 2011. It includes a number of important Supreme Court decisions and other developments, including a large award of damages in the Obsidian Finance v Cox litigation.

Canada: The Supreme Court has released decisions in two cases, Éditions Écosociété Inc. v. Banro Corp., 2012 SCC 18 and Breeden v. Black, 2012 SCC 19 that involve defamation suits commenced in Ontario against non-resident defendants. In a comment piece published on Inforrm, Paul B. Schabas and Erin Hoult argue that they “leave the door to libel tourism wide-open in Canada“.

Australia: Eight Australian media organisations are appealing against an order concerning a conspiracy to murder trial, claiming that the internet rendered its terms futile. Sydney Morning Herald reports here. [Hat-tip: @UniRdg_LTRK]

Malaysia: Defamation proceedings in Lynas Corporation Limited’s action against the online news service ‘Free Malaysia Today’ are underway in the High Court, according to the New Straits Times.

Next week in the courts

On Monday 23 April 2012 the adjourned privacy and harassment trial in the case of Trimingham v Associated Newspapers will begin before Tugendhat J.  There is an Inforrm case preview.

On Tuesday 24 April 2012 the libel trial in the case of Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire will begin before Bean J.

Next week at the Leveson Inquiry

Following a break in oral evidence, hearings with resume at the Leveson Inquiry on 23 April 2012.

Monday 23 April, 11:30 – 13:00: John Ryley (Sky News); 14:00 – 16:30, Aidan Barclay, Evgeny Lebedev

Tuesday 24 April, 10:00 – 16:30, James Murdoch. To be read: Frederic Michel (News Corporation)

Wednesday 25 April, 10:00 – 16:30, Rupert Murdoch

Thursday 26 April, 10:00 – 13:00, (tbc) Rupert Murdoch

Next week in Parliament

Monday 23 April, 2.30pm, Oral Questions – Legislation Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – Consideration of Commons amendments – Lord McNally. Main chambers, House of Lords.

April 2012, 2.30pm, Oral Questions – Legislation – Protection of Freedoms Bill – Consideration of Commons amendments – Lord Henley.

Wednesday 25 April 2012, 4pm – 4.30pm, Future of local newspapers – Louise Mensch. Westminster Hall, House of Commons.

Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

Levy v. Coomber heard 9 and 16 November 2011 (HHJ Moloney QC)

El-Naschie v Macmillan, heard 11, 14, 16 to 18, 21, 22, 25, 28-30 November, 1 -2 December 2011 (Sharp J)

Woodrow v Johansson, heard 19 January 2012 (HHJ Parkes QC)

Chambers v DPP, heard 8 February 2012 (Gross LJ and Irwin J)

Qema v NGN Ltd heard 29 February and 1 March 2012 (Sharp J)

Hunt v Times Newspapers, heard 9 and 12 March 2012 (Eady J)

Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire, heard 3 April 2012 (Maurice Kay and Hooper LJJ and Henderson J)

CVB v MGN Ltd heard 19 April 2012 (Tugendhat J)

Also on Inforrm last week

This week’s Round Up was compiled for Inforrm by Judith Townend, a freelance journalist and PhD researcher examining legal restraints on the media, who runs the Meeja Law blog. She is @jtownend on Twitter. Please send suggestions, tips and event listings for inclusion in future round ups to jt.townend@gmail.com.


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23 04 2012
jtownend

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