Mirror Group Newspapers is reported to have paid out £500,000 to settle phone-hacking and other misuse of private information claims brought to 29 people including the entertainer Les Dennis, presenter Natasha Kaplinsky and EastEnders actor Steve McFadden. Many of the claimants were friends or family of the famous people targeted by journalists.
A number of those who settled their claims with Mirror Group Newspapers are involved in a separate civil case against the Sun publisher News Group Newspapers. The settlements were announced in statements in open court read before Mann J on 18 November 2016. We had a post about these. The story featured in the Guardian and the Press Gazette but was ignored by the rest of the press.
Freedom House has published a report entitled “Silencing the Messenger: Communication Apps Under Pressure,” which looks at Internet freedom around the world. Some of their findings included the fact that Internet freedom around the world declined in 2016 for the sixth consecutive year. They found that more governments than ever are targeting social media and communication apps as a means of halting the rapid dissemination of information, particularly during anti-government protests. A change from previous years is that governments are increasingly targeting voice communication and messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram, rather than just social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 passed through its final parliamentary stages. The Act was approved by the House of Lords on Wednesday. The draft of the Bill has sparked controversy, as it will hand significant and wide-ranging powers to state surveillance agencies, and has been strongly criticised by some privacy and human rights advocacy groups. Silkie Carlo, a Policy Officer at Liberty, criticised the bill in the Independent, calling it “a law…that silently rips privacy from the modern world.” The Zelo Street blog has a post about the bill, drawing attention to the silence of most of the press about this measure.
The Mail on Sunday has a report on the Duchess of York’s claim against News Group Newspapers over a Mazher Mahmood “sting”. It is said that she is claiming damages of £25 million. The paper also reports on the Defence which is said to contend that the published story was true and in the public interest. It claims that any losses were caused by the Duchess of York’s own illegal conduct. The Zelo Street blog has a comment on this story entitled “Fake Sheikh – Enter Fergie”.
“Fake News” has been a big story this week. Mark Zuckerberg has claimed that only one percent of Facebook posts carry fake news reports but has said that the company is working on some solutions. The New York Times has argued that the fixation on fake news is overshadowing the waning trust in real reporting. Zelo Street draws attention to a right wing backlash against those identifying “fake news” sites.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
Article 19 Working Party has made a statement on the EU-US Umbrella Agreement.
Panopticon examines the ways that data subjects can challenge the compliance of public authorities with the Data Protection Act 1998.
It is reported that German chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a loosening of restrictive German data protection laws during during Germany’s 10th IT summit in Saarbrücken this week.
Russia is taking steps to ban LinkedIn, accusing it of violating data protection rights.
Freedom of Information
The Panopticon Blog has a post on last’s weeks decision of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v Hungary, in relation to the Article 10 right to freedom of information. We had a post about this decision at the time.
We have already mentioned the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 which passed its final parliamentary stages this week.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We have also already mentioned the statements in open court in the Mirror Group Phone Hacking litigation. We are not aware of any others.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
Roy Greenslade in the Guardian examines how huge media coverage of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage has provided them with more credibility.
The Sun and Mail Online have both taken down online stories which suggested Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was “dancing a jig” on his way to the Cenotaph on Rembrance Sunday.
Jonathan Heawood, the director of press regulator IMPRESS, has written an article in the Press Gazette saying that the regulator is “no more a state regulator than a company which passes its audit is a state company.” The article was edited by the Press Gazette, as Zelo Street pointed out. The full article can be found on the IMPRESS website.
Sam Allardyce is demanding that the Daily Telegraph release its tape recordings of his meeting with the newspaper’s undercover reporters, which led to his dismissal as England’s football manager.
IPSO has upheld a privacy complaint against the Daily Mail over a story about Princess Beatrice wearing a “very skimpy bikini”.
Last week in the Courts
On 16 November 2016 there was an application in the case of Optical Express v Associated Newspapers Ltd before Nicola Davies J. Judgment was reserved.
1 December 2016, Event: Internet & Social Media Law 2016, Grange Tower Bridge Hotel, London. This conference brings you the latest updates and developments in light of such things as the Digital Single Market, the Investigatory Powers Bill, and the legal implications of Brexit.
8 December 2016, Article 19 event: 250 years of freedom of information, Free Word Centre.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
The Sydney judge presiding over a defamation case about a teenager’s mullet has questioned whether the case has backfired by attracting a wave of embarrassing publicity.
A Bhutan journalist, Namgay Zam, has been hit by a defamation suit and now faces a fine or jail after sharing a Facebook post written by a woman about a property dispute between her family and a local businessman, Sonam Phuntsho. Zam has said that the case risks further subduing deferential media.
In Quebec a probe into allegations of abuse by police against native women has sparked dozens of complaints, but only two officers have been charged.
The attempt by an Alberta judge to provide anonymity to a man convicted of internet luring has had the opposite effect. The judge opted to use the initials of the accused instead of his full name. But the attempt to shield the accused from undue attention only garnered him more, and since there was no official publication ban in place, the public has since learned his name.
A defamation suit has been filed against two software engineers who sent allegedly defamatory emails to their team leader, and uploaded similar content on social media.
There was significant circumstantial evidence that a man who sued the Sunday World for libel was a drug importer, a lawyer for the newspaper has told the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has reserved judgement on Martin McDonagh’s appeal, after the paper described him as a “Traveller drug king”.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has rejected calls in the Dáil for a commission of inquiry into media ownership in Ireland to be set up.
Another Japanese court has rejected billionaire Kazuo Okada’s defamation suit against news agency Reuters over allegations of casino bribery in the Philippines.
In a libel case Nationalist Party President Ann Fenech has denied allegations and insinuations made by the Labour Party over her involvement in Panama Companies.
A Thai court has thrown out defamation charges against a news agency for alleging environmental damage by a gold mine, which was described by a lawyer as a “rare win for press freedom in the country.”
The New Hampshire Supreme Court for a third time has ruled in favour of protecting the privacy of a 19-year-old murder victim.
Media file has said that recent libel verdicts, such as those against Rolling Stone and Gawker, could lead to “chilling” effects on the media industry.
Research and Resources
- Ms Lods; Law+Tech news round up. 15 November 2016
- Disclosure and Its Discontents: Protecting Privacy in a Time of Surveillance Center for Global Communication Studies, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Colin Agur, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, School of Journalism & Mass Communication
Next Week in the Courts
We are not aware of any media law cases listed for the forthcoming week.
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).
Mionis v Democratic Press heard 27 October 2016 (Gloster, Sharp and Lindblom LJJ).
Holyoake & Anor v Candy & Ors heard 4 November 2016 (Warby J).
Shakil-Ur-Rahman v Ary Network Ltd & Anor, heard 31 October to 4 November and 7 November 2016 (Sir David Eady)
Otuo v Watchtower Bible and Tract Society 8 November 2016 (Chancellor, Gloster and Sharp LJJ).
Lisle-Mainwaring v Associated Newspapers 11 November 2016 (HHJ Parkes QC).
Optical Express v Associated Newspapers Ltd, 16 November 2016 (Nicola Davies J).
This post was compiled by Georgia Tomlinson who is a researcher.