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Law and Media Round Up – 24 September 2012

The theme of privacy continued to dominate media law discussion last week, as a French court granted an injunction prohibiting further publication of the Duchess of Cambridge photographs in France. Press Gazette reported that the editor of the Irish Daily Star, Michael O’Kane, was suspended following his decision to publish the photographs.

Paul Bernal, media law lecturer at the University of East Anglia, hit a record for his blog traffic with over 100,000 hits on a blog post on Facebook (more hits in one day than he has had in total over two whole years…) and its experiment to identify whether accounts are registered under real names. According to the TPM website, Facebook confirmed that for the past several months, “it has been surveying users about their Friends’ usernames, asking if the usernames are ‘your friend’s real name’ or not“.

Bernal’s post discusses the associated privacy and anonymity issues, in relation to whistleblowing and state surveillance. In other Facebook/privacy news, Facebook Ireland has agreed to delete the “template” images it stores of its EU users, reports.

Media journalist Jon Slattery’s quotes of the week include the Irish Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in a statement about the Irish Daily Star publishing the Duchess of Cambridge pictures:

Despite the existence of our Press Council and reasonable principles which the print media are expected to follow, it is clear that some sections of the print media are either unable or unwilling in their reportage to distinguish between ‘prurient interest’ and ‘the public interest’.

Slattery also links to an article by Paul Staines, in the new issue of Index on Censorship, Censors on Campus, which also includes articles by Marta Cooper, Martin Moore, Mark Lewis, Alan Rusbridger, and Trevor Kavanagh dealing with the question of ‘After Leveson’.

The Upper Tribunal gave judgment in Evans v IC and Others (Seven Government Departments) [2012] UKUT 313 (AAC) , which allowed the publication of Prince Charles’ correspondence with government ministers, following Freedom of Information requests made by Guardian reporter Rob Evans (who reports the decision here). The 11KBW Panopticon blog has a case analysis here.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided not to charge Daniel Thomas for posting a homophobic message on Twitter about the swimmer Tom Daley, it announced last week.

“… the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Wales, Jim Brisbane, has concluded that on a full analysis of the context and circumstances in which this single message was sent, it was not so grossly offensive that criminal charges need to be brought.”

The CPS intends to issue guidelines on social media cases for prosecutors, which “will assist them in deciding whether criminal charges should be brought in the cases that arise for their consideration“, said Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions. Adam Wagner considers this latest development in a post here. Luke Scanlon, who specialises in technology and social medial law at Pinsent Masons, comments here. Professor Lilian Edwards considers the wider issues around section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 here.

HoldtheFrontPage’s weekly law column reported on a Parliamentary debate, in which Labour MP for Liverpool, Walton, Steve Rotheram drew attention to internet ‘trolling’ and ‘RIP trolling’. He argued: “the solution may or may not take the form of legislation, but if a change in the law is required, so be it“.

In case we forget defamation amid all the privacy chatter, here is a post by Mike Harris of the Libel Reform campaign and Index on Censorship, arguing that corporations should not be able to sue under defamation – a provision not included in the Defamation Bill 2012, currently passing through Parliament. According to his post, there is cross-party support to block corporations suing individuals and the campaign believes that the new ministerial line-up may be more open to reform than previous justice secretary Kenneth Clarke. Hilary Young, who teaches in the faculty of law at the University of New Brunswick, makes a similar argument for Canadian law, in an article for

There have now been 14 people arrested as part of the Metropolitan Police Tuleta inquiry into allegations of computer hacking, reports Press Gazette. Fifty people have been arrested as part of Operation Elvedon, which is investigating alleged corrupt payments to public officials.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

We are not aware of anything to report in this section. Please contact us if any statements should be included and we will update the round up.

Journalism and regulation

There are no new adjudications to report, but several resolutions.

These include a resolved complaint brought by Melvyn Bragg against the Independent on Sunday, relating to issues of privacy. Bragg complained to the Press Complaints Commission via Lewis Silkin solicitors “that the newspaper had conducted an interview with him, and published the resulting article, in a manner that raised breaches of Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice“. The newspaper did not accept that it had breached the code but published this apology.

In its apology the IoS explained that Bragg had agreed to an interview – which has now been removed from its website – about his professional work, but not his private life. The IoS explains that the resulting article included “considerable background information about his private life (taken from the public domain)“. It said: “While it is not the practice of The IoS to agree the terms of published material with a subject in advance, we accept that Melvyn Bragg believed the agreement we had made with him related to the interview as it appeared, as well as the way in which it was conducted. We are sorry that matters were not set out more explicitly by us before the interview and for the upset that has plainly been caused to Melvyn Bragg and his family.”

Research & resources

In the Courts

We are not aware of anything to report in this section. Please contact us with anything that should be included and we will update the round up.


Please follow event links for details of tickets / admission.

24 September 2012, 6.30pm, A New Golden Age in Media? Pedro J. Ramírez, Editorial Director of Unidad Editorial (chair: James Harding, editor, The Times) LSE.

27 September 2012, Conference5RB (media law & entertainment) London.

28 September 2012, LexisNexis Butterworths Intellectual Property in the Digital Enviroment, London.

3 October 2012, 6.30pm, James Cameron Memorial Award and Lecture 2012: N Ram, former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu and Group publications. City University London.

6-7 October: Launch of the latest issue of Index on Censorship, ‘Censors on Campus’, at Rethinking Small Media conference, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London.

18 October, 10.30am, The Communications Data Bill: ‘Snoopers’ charter’, or safeguarding our security? Index on Censorship and the Global Network Initiative. Free Word Centre, London.

24 October 2012, 6pm, Ten Years On – The Iraq Dossiers: Who Was Damaged Most by Hutton?, Media Society debate with Kevin Marsh, former editor ‘Today’; Peter Oborne, Lance Price, Professor Steven Barnett, Professor Jean Seaton (Chair: Steve Hewlett). University of Westminster, London.

25 October 2012, After Leveson: Annual Conference of the Institute of Communication Ethics (from 9.30am); Media Society debate (3.30pm); launch of The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial (Abramis),second edition. Frontline Club, London.

19 November 2012, The Poetry of Free Expression: Celebrating 40 years of Index on Censorship, Index on Censorship / Poet in the City. King’s Place, London.

28 November 2012, 6pmCEL Annual Lecture 2012: Media Freedoms & Media Standards’, Baroness Onora O’Neill

Know of any media law events happening in the autumn? Please let Inforrm know:

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Namibia: The ruling Swapo Party “has agreed to pay journalist John Grobler N$30 000, as well as his legal costs, as compensation over defamatory statements which had been made about him on the party’s website“, reports

Peru: reports on a defamation case concerning a dispute over the presence of genetic modification in Peruvian maize crops. According to the magazine’s report, a criminal libel conviction against the biologist Ernesto Bustamante Donayre has been overturned.

South Africa: On 18 September 2012 in the case of Buthelezi v BDFM Publishers (Pty) Ltd and Others [2012] ZAGPJHC 164, the South Gauteng High Court dismissed a defamation action by Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The Judge concluded:

“The article in question cannot be defamatory for a reason that is mathematical in both its simplicity and its lucid beauty: it leaves open the possibility that the Prince is not complicit in Kwazulu/Natal’s political violence (in which case there is no defamation) but, on the other hand, recognizes that there are those who believe that he is. If the Prince’s complicity in the violence is true, the fact that it would be for the public benefit that this be known would quash the action” [20]

Ukraine: According to OSCE, the Ukrainian Parliament has adopted an amendment to the criminal code during the first reading of a draft law, which would re-introduce the crime of libel and penalties of up to three years of imprisonment. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, said:

“I sincerely hope that this amendment will not be adopted in the second reading, so that the media in Ukraine can continue its important role of informing the society on issues of public interest without fear of facing criminal charges”.

Next week in the courts

A further hearing in the Phone Hacking litigation before Vos J. is scheduled for 25 September 2012.

Next week in Parliament

From Wednesday 19 September, the House of Commons will be in recess. The House will next sit on Monday 15 October 2012.

The House of Lords is in recess. The House will next sit on Monday 08 October 2012.


The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

Miller v Associated Newspapers heard 21 to 25 May 2012 (Sharp J)

Qadir v Associated Newspapers heard 26 and 27 July 2012 (Tugendhat J)

KC v MGN; Cairns v Modi, heard 26 and 27 July 2012 (Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls, Eady 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

1 Comment

  1. jtownend

    Reblogged this on Media law and ethics.

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