Last week’s round up came just ahead of the announcement that all three parties had come to an agreement on a Royal Charter [PDF] with accompanying statute. Provisions relating to costs and exemplary damages were inserted into the Crime and Courts Bill, which will be considered by the House of Lords this week (see “In Parliament” below). An amendment was made to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to protect certain future Royal Charters against being changed by the Privy Council without Parliamentary approval.
Predictably, these developments triggered heightened media coverage of the issues, as the implications of the charter and related statute were considered. The issue of exemplary damages and costs is particularly controversial, as Gill Phillips discussed in this post for Inforrm. Online publishers and bloggers considered their position in view of proposals, with reports that the Liberal Democrats and Labour would be “tabling manuscript amendments” to the crime and courts bill in the Lords, to prevent small publications facing the threat of exemplary damages if they did not join the regulator.
One result of the Leveson agreement was the “release” of the Defamation Bill from David Cameron’s block on further consideration. The House of Commons will consider the Lords Amendments on 16 April 2013 (the so-called process of “ping pong”)
On Thursday 21 March 2013 the UK Supreme Court sat in secret for the first time. A panel of nine Supreme Court justices decided that a private hearing was necessary in a case involving an Iranian bank and the Government. The UK Supreme Court Blog has published the judges’ reasoning here. The UK Human Rights blog has a commentary here. In related news, on Tuesday 26 March 2013, the House of Lords will consider amendments to the Justice and Security Bill, concerning closed material proceedings, made by the House of Commons. The UK Human Rights Blog rounds up the issues here.
Siobhain McDonagh MP accepted damages and a public apology from The Sun at the High Court on Monday, for “serious misuse of her private information“. The BBC reported: “police told Siobhain McDonagh her text messages had been accessed after her phone was stolen in October 2010. The Sun, which has not admitted the theft of the phone itself, is to pay the MP “very substantial” damages”. The court heard there were “potentially” hundreds more victims of phone hacking at the 14th case management conference relating to civil damages actions, as PA Media Lawyer reported here.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
The Independent newspaper has apologised and paid “substantial” damages to Ljubomir Jurkovic a Croatian actor whose picture was wrongly used to illustrate a report about the death of a Nazi war criminal in Germany, it has reported. Publication of the photograph was a mistake, the claimant’s counsel, Christina Michalos, told Mrs Justice Sharpe on Tuesday 19 March. “The photograph of the claimant should never have been used to illustrate the print story about Samuel Kunz,” … “Mr Jurkovic is not and has never been a Nazi war criminal and had no connection of any kind with Samuel Kunz” [More in PA Media Lawyer – £].
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Journalism and regulation
There are no new PCC adjudications to report, but a few resolved cases: Richard Jones v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 22/03/2013; Levy & McRae Solicitors, on behalf of Christopher and Mary Gorman v The Sun, Clause 1, 22/03/2013; Mr Dean Torkington v The Sunday Times, Clause 1, 22/03/2013; Dr Helen Hammond v The Daily Telegraph, Clause 1, 22/03/2013; Basim Shamsuddin v The Mail on Sunday, Clause 1, 19/03/2013; Noveprim Group v Daily Mirror, Clause 1, 18/03/2013.
In all but one case, the complaints were resolved with an amendment to, or removal of, an item from the publication’s website.
A Sky News journalist who allegedly hacked into the e-mail accounts of the couple involved in the ‘canoe man’ story will not be prosecuted, the Crown Prosecution Service has decided – as it would not be in the public interest. Press Gazette reports here.
Kostas Vaxevanis, a Greek journalist, Bassel Khartabil, a Syrian activist, and Zanele Muholi, a photographer from South Africa, were among the winners at the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards in London last week, as Index on Censorship reports here.
Research & resources
- Gordon Ramsay, New Statesman: How the press has failed to represent the public mood over Leveson
- Jack of Kent: Lucy Meadows resource page
- paidContent: Citizen journalism at work: Unemployed British man becomes Syrian weapons expert
- Head of Legal, Carl Gardner, ‘Why press regulation should cover blogs‘
- Liberal Conspiracy, Sunny Hundal, ‘Press regulation deal and blogs: where things stand‘
- Tony Jaffa, HoldtheFrontPage, ‘Pre-emptive strikes against regional dailies‘
In the Courts
On Monday 18 March 2013, the trial in the case of ZAM v CFW began before Tugendhat J and, although listed for 5 days, was completed in one.
On Tuesday 19 March 2013, the libel trial in the case of Fish v Myint was settled on the first day.
Judgment was handed down in Rothschild v Associated Newspapers Limited  EWCA Civ 197. The appeal against Mr Justice Tugendhat’s rejection of his libel claim against Associated Newspapers was dismissed. The Appellant was ordered to pay the Respondent £50,000 in costs. PA Media Lawyer reports here; One Brick Court here. Bloomberg published a short report here.
27 March 2013, 17:30, Broadcast competition and regulation, Helen Weeds, University of Essex, City University London.
5 April 2013, Polis Journalism Conference, LSE, London.
9 April 2013, Scotsman conference: The Future of the Media in Scotland, The Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh.
22 April 2013, IBC Legal’s 20th Anniversary Defamation & Privacy conference, Grange Tower Bridge Hill, London.
16-17 May 2013, Legal frontiers in digital media: the sixth annual conference on emerging legal issues surrounding digital publishing and content distribution, Stanford University, Paul Brest Hall, Stanford, California.
23-24 May, “Social Media, Regulation and Freedom of Expression: A comparative perspective”. A workshop organized by HKBU and Tsinghua University, Communication & Visual Arts Building, Hong Kong Baptist University. Hong Kong.
Know of any media law events happening in the next few months? Please let Inforrm know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Tunisia: A blogger and a university professor could receive two years in prison over allegations about public officials. Human Rights Watch reports here, calling for the decriminalisation of defamation in the country.
Sweden: As reported by Dirk Voorhoof and Inger Høedt-Rasmussen, in the freedom of expression / copyright case of Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi (The Pirate Bay) v. Sweden, Appl. nr. 40397/12, the Court found “that the domestic courts had rightly balanced the competing interests at stake – i.e. the right of the applicants to receive and impart information and the necessity to protect copyright – when convicting the applicants and therefore rejected their application as manifestly ill-founded“. Also see Lorna Woods’ commentary here.
Next week in the courts
On Monday 25 March 2013 Sharp J will hear applications in the case of Vaughan v LB of Lewisham.
Next week in Parliament
Monday 25 March 2013, 2.30pm, Legislation – Crime and Courts Bill [HL] – Consideration of Commons amendments – Lord Taylor of Holbeach, Main Chamber, House of Lords.
Tuesday 26 March, 2.30pm, Legislation – Justice and Security Bill [HL] – Consideration of Commons amendments – Lord Wallace of Tankerness, Main Chamber, House of Lords.
Wednesday 27 March, 11am, Orders and Regulations – Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Amendment of Schedule 1) Order 2013 – Motion to Regret; Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 – Motion to Approve – Lord Bach/Lord McNally. Orders and Regulations – Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 – Motions to Regret – Baroness Grey Thompson and Baroness Scotland of Asthal/Lord McNally, Main Chamber, House of Lords.
The House of Commons will be in recess from 27 March and will next sit on Monday 15 April 2013.
The following reserved judgment after a public hearing remains outstanding:
ZAM v CFW heard 19 March 2013 (Tugendhat J).
Also on Inforrm last week
- News: Scotland, and Northern Ireland and the Defamation Bill
- News: Leveson, cross party agreement on Royal Charter ends phase one
- Case Law: Thompson v James – blogger loses libel claim against Council – Gervase de Wilde
- Freedom of the press and statutory regulation – Finland, Denmark and Ireland
- The Royal Charter, Bloggers and Internet regulation – an extension too far? – Tim Lowles
- Case Law, Court of Human Rights, The Pirate Bay v. Sweden, Copyright versus Freedom of Expression II – Dirk Voorhoof and Inger Høedt-Rasmussen
- Briefing Note on Exemplary Damages and Costs – Gill Phillips
- The fundamental right to insult our leaders: Three worrying cases in France, the West Bank and right here – Adam Wagner
- Leveson, Article 10 and Apologies: another red herring – Hugh Tomlinson QC
- Privacy, Monstering and the Press: the case of Lucy Meadows
- The Leveson press freedom law that the press didn’t want – Brian Cathcart
- News: “‘Protecting free speech: A Public Interest Defence for the Media?”, A Debate at Gray’s Inn – Henry Vane
- News: Lawyers for Media Standards – serious concerns about Royal Charter arbitration scheme
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 email@example.com.