The biggest media legal story of the week concerned the suspended Sun on Sunday journalist, Mazher Mahmood. On Monday, he made an unsuccessful application for permission to appeal against the refusal of an injunction against the BBC.
The Panorama documentary was, however, taken off at the last moment. Mr Mahmood complained – before broadcast – that the programme was “deeply misleading”.
The programme was finally broadcast on Wednesday 13 November 2014. This widely reported in the media with the Daily Mail telling its readers that “’Fake Sheikh’ Mazher Mahmood finally unmasked by BBC Panorama” There were a number of posts about the “Fake Sheikh” on the Bellingcat and Press Gang blogs. In the Guardian Roy Greenslade (a longstanding critic of Mr Mahmood), suggested that it was “Time for an investigation into the fake sheikh after Panorama revelations”
Meanwhile, evidence in two “Operation Elveden” criminal trials is currently being considered by juries. There was slightly more reporting of these cases this week, though this was not uniform across the press.
First, the “Sun Six” trial at Kingston Crown Court. This finally made the newspaper which employs the journalists – but only to report the Judge’s half time ruling on the “general conspiracy charge”: “Sun 6 are clear on payment ‘plot’ rap” [£] (see also the Guardian and the Telegraph). The evidence of its own news editor about the threatening and abusive of conduct of its former editor, Rebekah Brooks, unfortunately passed the newspaper by.
This story was, however, reported by a number of other media outlets
- “Rebekah Brooks had furious temper as Sun editor, jury in Chris Pharo trial told” (Guardian)
- “Rebekah Brooks a ‘nightmare’ Sun journalist claim” (BBC News)
- “Sun reporter was told to dump pregnant girlfriend if he wanted promotion, court hears” (Telegraph)
- “Journalist describes ‘nightmare’ of working with Rebekah Brooks” (ITV News)
- “Hacking trial: ‘Nightmare’ Rebekah Brooks ‘humiliated and abused’ Sun’s news chief (Independent)
Second, there is the HMRC Leak Trial at the Old Bailey involving Sun journalist Clodagh Hartley. There were reports in the Guardian on 12 November (“HMRC press office who sold stories to the Sun ‘thought he would be protected’”) and 13 November (“Sun’s former editor ‘did not have balls to run budget leak’, Old Bailey told”). Nothing in the Sun.
The Guardian (belatedly) reported the final conclusion of Andy Miller’s successful libel claim against the Daily Mail under the headline “Daily Mail faces £3m bill after libel battle with businessman Andy Miller”.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Lalit Modi has issued legal proceedings against Chris Cairns to have the 2012 High Court libel verdict set aside on the grounds of fraud.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has issued guidance for drone operators, saying that they should warn the public about drone flights. There was a report in the Guardian.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in open court this week.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
On 9 November 2014 the Chairman of IPSO, Sir Alan Moses, delivered the Society of Editors’ Lecture at the Society’s Annual Conference. This did not impress the campaigning group Hacked Off. We had a piece from Brian Cathcart entitled “IPSO chair’s speech to Society of Editors does not bode well for self-regulator”.
Meanwhile, IPSO remains quiet – with no published adjudications, resolutions or any other kind of complaint determination.
Last Week in the Courts
On Monday 10 November 2014 there are applications in the “Plebgate” case of Mitchell v News Group, Rowland v Mitchell before Mitting J.
On Wednesday 12 November 2014, there was an application in the case of Mionis v Democratic Press to turn the terms of a settlement agreement into an injunction. Sir David Eady reserved judgment.
On Friday 14 November 2014, Edis J handed down two judgments in the case of Hegglin v Google Inc – one from the PTR ( EWHC 3793 (QB)) and the other concerning costs ( EWHC 3798 (QB)).
Know of any media law events happening later this summer or in the autumn? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In the case of Burns v Sunol ( NSWCATAD 192) the Civil and Administrative Tribunal of New South Wales ordered a blogger ordered to pay Aus$2500 for breach of orders prohibiting him from publishing material vilifying homosexuals.
In the case of DK v Telstra Corporation  AICmr 118, the Privacy Commissioner awarded a Family Judge the sum of Aus$18,000 after his name, address and phone number were published in the White Pages, causing him to apply for interstate transfer because of safety risks. There was a report in the Melbourne Sun Herald.
In the case of Health Genetic Center v Reed Business Information 2014 ONSC 6449, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ordered the plaintiff company to pay security for costs of a libel action in respect of an article in the New Scientist in the sum of Can$300,000.
The Irish Times reports that an order for security for costs was made in the case of McAdam Food Products Ltd v ABP Food Group, a libel action arising out of the Irish horsemeat scandal.
It is reported that a defamation action against the singer Van Morrison by PR Executive John Saunders has settled. In the High Court on 10 November 2014 Mr Saunders’ counsel told Ms Justice Marie Baker that the action had been settled on terms and could be struck out.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that the Department of Justice has blocked the publication of a consultation paper from the Northern Ireland Law Commission (“NILC”) on libel reform. A letter from the NILC stated that
“A consultation paper on the subject is in fact in a final form ready to be published, with the intention of having a final report published by June 2015. However, the Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland announced at the end of September that, because of financial pressures, NILC should cease to operate from April 1 2015, and in that context DOJ have instructed NILC not to issue the consultation paper at this stage.”
iMediaEthics had a report on the case brought by the Prime Minister against blogger Roy Ngerng. The full judgment in the case of Lee Hsien Loong v Roy Ngenrg Yi Ling  SGHC 230 [pdf] is now available. The shows that Mr Ngerng accept that the words he published were defamatory and false but sought to rely on an argument that the whole law of defamation is unconstitutional. This argument (which had, in fact, been run before in Singapore in actions brought by the present PM’s father, Lee Kuan Yew) was, perhaps unsurprisingly, rejected.
On November 12, Ninth Circuit accepted to rehear en banc the Garcia v. Google case. In March 2014 a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversed a district court which had denied an actress, who had briefly appears in the Innocence of Muslims movie, a preliminary injunction to take down the movie from YouTube. There is a discussion of the case on the IPKat blog.
Research and Resources
- Three Errors in the Defamation Act 2013, Eric Descheemaeker, Journal of European Tort Law, forthcoming, SSRN.
- Reasonable expectation of anonymity, Jeffrey Skopek, Virginia Law Review, forthcoming, SSRN
- Presentation on the impact of right to be forgotten, Eric P Robinson, Blog Law Online
- MsLods’ news round-up: law + technology
- “Of Straws and Haystacks” – a post about TEMPORA by Graham Smith on his Cyberleagle blog.
- “So who’s breaking the internet this time?”, Paul Bernal’s blog.
Next week in the courts
On Monday 17 November 2014 the trial of preliminary issues in the “Plebgate” case of Mitchell v News Group, Rowland v Mitchell will commence before Mitting J. We had a Case Preview.
We are not aware of any other media cases before the courts this week.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
Flood v Times Newspapers, heard 8 July 2014 (Sharp and Macur LJJ and Sir Timothy Lloyd).
Al Saud & anr v Forbes LLC & ors, heard 4 November 2014 (Sir Michael Tugendhat)
Mionis v Democratic Press heard 12 November 2014 (Sir David Eady).