Law and Media Round Up – 7 October 2013

7 10 2013

Round Up 2013This has been the week of “Miliband and the Daily Mail”. The country’s most powerful newspaper took on the leader of the opposition and, by all accounts, lost.  A YouGov poll showed that a majority of the public (and its readers) disapproved of the story and thought it should apologise.

Overall, as Roy Greenslade put it Now Paul Dacre is the story as Miliband emerges with enhanced image”. The Daily Mail has, however, been unrepentant.  Although Editor Paul Dacre has not made any public comment (leading to an online petition by Alastair Campbell gaining 75,000 signatures) the paper was defended by several of its journalists, including Quentin Letts and Alex Brummer.

The Daily Mail story about Ralph Miliband was criticised by a wide range of people, from the Master of Wellington College to the Editor of the South Wales Argus, taking in both Labour politicians and former Tory Cabinet Ministers Lords Heseltine and Moore in between.

And then Viscount Rothermere was forced to apologise to Mr Miliband after a Mail on Sunday reporter gatecrashed a memorial service for his uncle.  The Viscount, Chairman of the Mail Newspaper Group, was widely written about – as the man who had the fate of Editor in Chief Paul Dacre in his hands.

There was a strong suspicion that the venom directed at Ralph Miliband derived from his son’s support for Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations for self-regulation of the press.  The editorial which accompanied Ed Miliband’s reply (and the Mail’s reprint of the original article) appeared to give the game away.  This contained, as Brian Cathcart pointed out on this blog, a number of factual errors and misrepresentations.

In the Press Gazette Dominic Ponsford worried that the “Miliband/Mail furore may have fatally weakened Fleet Street’s hand on press regulation at a crucial juncture”. This is because this week the Privy Council is widely expected, at its 9 October 2013 meeting, to reject the “PressBoF Charter” and seal the “Cross-Party” version agreed by Parliament on 18 March 2013.  If this happens the press will have lost “The First Battle of the Leveson Report” after a bruising 10 months of trench warfare.

The libel case brought by Gerry and Kate McCann began in the Portuguese Courts on 2 October 2013.  The claim relates to a book by former police chief Goncalo Amaral.

On 3 October 2013 Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group and English PEN, together with German internet activist Constanze Kurz, filed papers with the European Court of Human Rights alleging that GCHQ is invading the privacy of millions of European citizens.  The EFF has submitted a 32-page statement laying out much that is publicly known about the National Security Agency’s PRISM and UPSTREAM program.  There is a story about the application on the EFF website.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

There was a statement in open court in the case of Kim v Park before HHJ Moloney QC on 2 October 2013.

Journalism and regulation

There has been one adjudication by the Press Complaints Commission since our last round up.  In the case of Christine Hussain v Herald & Post (Luton)(3 October 2013) the complaint concerned the naming of a victim of sexual assault.  The PCC held that the newspaper had

published material that went well beyond the threshold set by Clause 11. In particular, the identification of the agency the victim had used – in the context of the other details included in the article – was very likely to contribute to her identification.

As a result there was a breach of clause 11 of the Code.

In addition there were 9 resolved complaints under Clause 1, Mr Patrick Gray v Oxford Mail, Mr John Marsh v Burton Mail,  Mr Michael McDermid v Daily Mail, Adele Brand v  Daily Mail,Dr Oluwatoyin Ogunsanya v Daily Mail; Debbie Vincent v Daily Mail, Ms Tina Olsen v The Sun, Ms Tina Olsen v News Shopper Bexley and North Kent, The Ministry of Justice v The Daily Telegraph.  There was also one resolved complaint under Clause 3, Natalie Sansom v Daily Mail

In the Courts

On 4 October 2013 there was a hearing in Bewry v Reed Elsevier (UK) Ltd.  Judgment was reserved.

Events

18 October 2013 2013NCTJ Defamation Act seminar by Mike Dodd, 1.30 – 4.30pm at Bloomberg, City Gate House, 39-45 Finsbury Square, London.

8-9 April 2014, “1984: Freedom and Censorship in the Media – Where Are We Now?“, Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Sunderland

Know of any media law events happening later this summer or in the autumn? Please let Inforrm know: inforrmeditorial@gmail.com.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Australia:
In the important case of O’Shane v Harbour Radio Pty Ltd ([2013] NSWCA 315) the New South Wales Court of Appeal held, by a majority of 3:2 that the plaintiff was not barred from bringing defamation proceedings with respect to criticism of the performance of her function as a magistrate.  Legal commentator Richard Ackland suggested that “Judges stay on the bench and keep off the playing field“.  The case seems likely to go to the High Court of Australia.

In the case of Glanville v TCN Channel Nine Pty Ltd ([2013] NSWSC 1143) at the outset of a 4 week trial McCallum J dismissed the claim against the Fourth Defendant, who had been only a minor contributor to the TV programme sued on.

And Mal Brough MP has said that he will vigorously defend a defamation suit brought against him by mining magnate Clive Palmer.

Canada:
In the case of Byong-Juon Kim v Song 2013 ONSC 4426 the Ontario Superior Court of Justice awarded libel damages of Can$17,000 (including Can$5,000 punitive damages) over a false allegation of assault.

Israel: The family of the late Jewish-Polish protagonist of the Holocaust film “The Pianist” lost a defamation case over quotes in a book calling him a Nazi collaborator.  The Judge said that he biographer had the right to quote various opinions and had not adopted the view.

Liberia: President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has said that the current libel laws in Liberia are under review and what they will be replaced by will be subjected to ‘reasonable debate.

South Africa:
In the case of Ketler Investments CC v Internet Service Providers Association ([2013] ZAGPJHC 232) the High Court dismissed an application by a company which sent out bulk emails to be removed from the defendant’s “Hall of Shame” of”spammers”.

Next week in the courts

The trials in the case of Norbrook Laboratories Ltd v Vetplus Ltd & anr will commence before Simon J on 7 October 2013 and is listed for 10 days.

The PTR the case of Barrett v Hackney Borough Council will take place before HHJ Moloney QC on 7 October 2013.

Next week in Parliament

On 8 and 9 October 2013 the House of Commons will deal with the Report Stage and Third Reading of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.

At 10.30am on 10 October 2013 the Culture, Media and Sport Committee will hear evidence from Lord Justice Leveson in the Grimond Room, Portcullis House.

On 8 October 2013 at 3.15pm the House of Lords Communications Committee will hear evidence on “Media Plurality” from Professor Roy Greenslade, and at 4.30 pm Mr Clive Marshall and Mr John Hardie.

Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

Hodgins v Squire Sanders (UK) LLP, 28 June 2013 (Sharp J)

Shathri v Guardian News and Media, 4 July 2013 (Nicola Davies J).

Karpov v Browder & ors, 24-25 July 2013 (Simon J)

Bewry v Reed Elsevier (UK) Ltd, 4 October 2013 (HHJ Moloney QC)


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