The long awaited publication of the Chilcot report was one of the week’s most covered stories. The press was highly critical of Tony Blair, with each newspaper damning the former prime minister with highly negative headlines.
“Chilcot report into Iraq war delivers harsh verdict on Blair” (Financial Times) , “A monster of delusion” (Daily Mail); “Weapon of mass deception” (Sun); “Blair’s private war” (Times); “Blair is world’s worst terrorist” (Daily Star) and “Spinning on their graves” (Independent).
The press’s reaction to the report, however, masks their own role in supporting and calling for war. The role of Rupert Murdoch in this has been documented by numerous sources. We had a post entitled “Tony Blair took Britain to war in 2003: but most of Fleet Street marched with him”.
The Media Blog also outlines this, noting that at the time Murdoch told an Australian magazine,
‘‘Bush is acting very morally, very correctly,’The greatest thing to come of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil. That’s bigger than any tax cut in any country.”
At the World Economic Forum in 2007. Murdoch was asked whether his media empire had tried to use its power to shape attitudes towards the war. Murdoch replied:
“We’ve tried. We’ve basically supported – our papers and television – I would say supported the Bush policy.“
Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, summed it up when giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry –
“I’m not sure that the Blair government – or Tony Blair – would have been able to take the British people to war if it hadn’t been for the implacable support provided by the Murdoch papers.”
The role of the press went beyond the Murdoch empire, however. UK media coverage of Iraq was generally aligned with the government, and the newspapers played a key role in galvanising public support.
The Chilcot Inquiry revealed the cooperation between the media and the government in achieving this aim, demonstrating that the government deliberately manipulated the news agenda to drum up public support. A letter, sent more than a year before war was declared, sets out the government’s media strategy and objectives for ensuring public support for the conflict, it begins “the process of preparing media and public opinion for possible action in Iraq is under way”.
Sir Cliff Richard has issued a statement saying that he has instructed his lawyers to make formal legal complaints to South Yorkshire Police and the BBC. There was a report on the BBC website (inaccurately) entitled “Cliff Richard starts legal action against BBC and South Yorkshire Police“.
In other news, Sir Cliff Richard, broadcaster Paul Gambaccini and Tory MP Nigel Evans have joined together to campaign for a change in the law after all three were accused of sexual offences before having the cases against them dropped. They said they intended to lobby for anonymity for those accused of sexual offences.
The Transparency project discusses the Re X judgment and the issue of transparency versus confidentiality. It discusses what we should do when information is already in the public domain and what the risks may be to the child if an adult party is identified.
HoldTheFrontPage discusses whether data protection could be the new privacy, suggesting that people pay be able to turn to data protection laws when they feel their privacy has been invaded.
Alan Sugar has claimed that the Daily Mail has paid him £20,000 after describing him as a “spiv” in a headline. Last week the Daily Mail published a clarification about the article which said:
“An article published on May 26 described Lord Sugar as a ‘spiv’. This word may be understood to describe a person who is dishonest in his business dealings. We are happy to confirm that this was not the intended meaning, as indeed the article stated he is honest and hard working.”.
The Open Rights group has published their first impressions of the Digital Economy Bill, which was revealed in the Queen’s Speech 2016. It will deliver several policy initiatives that the group has engaged with over the past two years.
Guardian editor Katharine Viner has warned that social media giants like Facebook are “overwhelmingly powerful” and “a real concern for the news industry”
The recently launched International Social Media Association wants to make sure content creators get credit for their intellectual property, new associations discusses the campaign here.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
Much analysis this week focuses on the impact of the leave result. The Open Rights Group examines how digital rights in general will be affected by Brexit.
The HawkTalk blog also discusses the referendum, examining how the leave and remain campaigns were able to access ex-directory phone numbers during the campaign.
The fieldfisher Privacy, Security and Information law blog examines the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report on Cyber Security: Protection of Personal Data Online.
SociallyAware examines the ECJ’s ruling on the Right to be forgotten, looking at how the ruling is affecting Asia.
The Hunton & Williams blog discusses the final version of the EU-US privacy shield.
Surveillance and Information Gathering
There are 15 secret “directions” in force under the Telecommunications Act, which enable the intelligence services to gather bulk data about online and phone traffic, a surveillance watchdog has revealed.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in open court last week.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
The Hampstead and Highgate Express has been told to publish a front page apology after Ipso upheld a complaint that its splash “Shylock jibe after bitter flats protest” gave a “significantly misleading impression” of events.
Roy Greenslade analyses media coverage of the Conservative leadership contest. With the Daily Mail supporting Theresa May, the Times and the Sun supporting Michael Gove, they are seeking to undermine the third candidate, Andrea Leadsom.
Post- Brexit political dramas are keeping journalists extremely busy, Greenslade argues. The so-called “daily news cycle” has been an irrelevance and TV and radio schedules have been torn up to allow for extended news bulletins.
Sun columnist and former political editor Trevor Kavanagh has argued that the press did not play a decisive role in the EU referendum result, and has dismissed the idea that the tabloids should adopt a more balanced approach.
Open Justice and Court Reporting
On 22 June 2016, in the case of London Borough of Sutton v Gray & Ors v Guardian News and Media Ltd  EWHC 1608 (Fam) Pauffley J dismissed an application by the media for publication of the judgment of King J concerning the case of the murdered child, Ellie Butler. However, she indicated that as soon as the criminal appeals process was completed a full, suitably redacted, version of the judgment should be published.
In the case of Times Newspapers v Abdulaziz  EWCA Crim 887, the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the Times concerning section 11 Orders made concerning an in camera hearing during a criminal trial.
Last week in the Courts
On 7 July 2016 Sir David Eady heard an application in the case of David v Gabriel.
On 8 July 2016, Sir David Eady heard an application in the case of Unnadkat v Patel.
On the same day, Warby J heard an application in the case of Theedom v Nourish Trading Ltd
Green J also heard an application in the case of Smith v Persons Unknown.
29 September 2016, “Conference5RB“, at at IET Savoy Place, Savoy Place, London WC2R 0BL, and will deal with current issues in defamation, privacy, Data Protection, harassment, reporting restrictions and contempt issues.
Please let us know if there are any events you would like to be included on this list by email: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Rupert Murdoch’s ability to influence the outcomes of Australian elections is waning, The Hoot argues. Despite the Murdoch press’s role as a cheerleader for the Conservative party, political deference to the man himself is a thing of the past.
Former Australia fast bowler Geoff Lawson is reportedly being sued for defamation lawsuit after he alleged that West Indies all-rounder Marlon Samuels was involved with gangs in Jamaica.
The law is being used to strike back at those who use social media to abuse and humiliate people, argues Stacks Law Firm. Three in five Australian adults say they have been the target of online abuse. A United Nations study found anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic abuse were the most common, followed by misogynistic and homophobic abuse.
The Canadian battle over “zero rating” places net neutrality safeguards at risk, argues Michael Geist. Large providers want to use zero rating or differential pricing schemes in order to move away from treating all content in an equal manner. Many fear this will lead to a return to two-tier internet, with content succeeding based on lucrative deals with network providers.
The Federal Court of Appeals has reined in privacy tort class actions. Molly Reynolds released a statement here. The FCA argues that where privacy breaches result from administrative errors corporate defendants should not be drawn into lengthy privacy tort litigation unless plaintiffs present facts from the outset that support all the elements of these claims for invasion of privacy.
Toronto businessman Harold Peerenboom’s defamation lawsuit against the billionaire CEO of Marvel Entertainment has taken a credibility hit after a judge ruled that Peerenboom illegally collected DNA samples. Peerenboom is suing Isaac Perlmutter, who sold Marvel to Disney for $4-billion (U.S.) in 2009, alleging he launched a hate-mail campaign against him.
Former Politiken chief editor Bo Lidegaard has been ordered by Copenhagen City Court to pay damages of 100,000 kroner to journalist Per Michaelsen. Politiken published several articles alleging that Michaelsen was suspected of being a spy during the Cold War for the former East German secret service, the Stasi.
The State is increasing the surveillance provisions of legislation that is clearly invalid, in defiance of a sweeping ECJ decision, it is argued in the Irish Times. The Government should be putting its time and resources into the urgent task of creating a valid piece of legislation that conforms with that landmark 2014 ECJ decision.
The Sunday World has apologised and agreed to pay undisclosed damages to a Bank of Ireland employee under a settlement of his defamation action. The damages to be paid to Shane Travers are understood to be substantial. The newspaper accepted he was a “wholly innocent victim” of the kidnappers.
A woman who experienced years of abuse after nude images of her were published online without her consent is considering taking legal action after one of the country’s biggest TV channels for reproducing the photographs.
New Zealand-born businessman Stephen Jennings has reached an out-of-court settlement in his defamation case against Fairfax Media. Fairfax published a story written by senior journalist Michael Field about Jennings’ business activities in Russia and Kenya.
Scotland needs more defamation cases, the Faculty of Advocates has argued. The current low level threatens development of the law in the area and the country’s stature as a litigation forum.
The Faculty of Advocates has been accused of putting “vested interests” ahead of freedom of speech by opposing reforms to Scotland’s defamation laws. It has set itself against core proposals to make it harder for the rich to launch trivial actions to silence their critics – or protect their reputations – in Scotland.
Supporters of a man being sued in a landmark defamation case about the purchase by a former Labour minister of a house gifted to the community have raised nearly all of the money to cover his legal, expenses. Former finance and health secretary Andy Kerr paid £180,000 for the historic mansion a century after it was bequeathed to the people of the Lanarkshire town of Strathaven.
It is reported that television psychologist “Dr Phil” McGraw is suing the National Enquirer for libel and appropriation of his name and likeness for $200 million.
Research and Resources
- The Canadian Defamation Action: An Empirical Study Hilary Young, University of New Brunswick – Fredericton – Faculty of Law.
- A ‘Serious’ Response to Trivial Defamation Claims: An Examination of S 1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013 (UK) from an Australian Perspective (2015) 20 Media and Arts Law Review, Phoebe Joan Galbally, University of Melbourne, Law School.
- Data Protection Rights and Tax Information Exchange in the European Union: An Uneasy Combination Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law, 23(3), 514-530, Marcel GH Schaper, Maastricht University – Maastricht Centre for Taxation.
- Disposing of Relics: Overt and Covert Blasphemy Statutes in Europe, Columbia Journal of European Law: Preliminary Reference (April 1, 2016), Joanna Diane Caytas, Columbia University
Next Week in the Courts
There will be an application in the case of Unnadkat v Patel on 13 or 14 July 2016. The trial is due to start on 18 July 2016.
The following reserved judgments in media law cases are outstanding:
CG v Facebook Ireland Limited, heard 4 and 5 April 2016 (Morgan LCJ, Gillen and Weatherup LJJ)(Northern Ireland Court of Appeal)
Simpson v Mirror Group Newspapers, heard, 24 May 2016 (Laws, King and Lindblom LJJ).
Ghuman v Ghuman, heard 13-17, 20-21 June 2016 (Dingemans J).
Economou v De Freitas, heard 13-17, 20, 22 June 2016 (Warby J).
Begg v BBC, heard 27 June to 1 July 2016 (Haddon-Cave J)
This week’s round up was compiled by Tessa Evans who is a researcher and journalist.