The murderous terror attack in Westminster this week raised difficult question about journalistic ethics, with a number of newspapers being criticised for publishing pictures of the dead and injured which, it was suggested, were ‘too intrusive.’
David Banks Media Law blog examined some of the photos published on the front pages of national newspapers, including photos of the police officer who suffered fatal injuries receiving medical treatment, photos of the attacker receiving medical treatment and of other victims of the attack. He looked at the publishing of these pictures in relation to the relevant guidelines. Freddy Mayhew in the Press Gazette also referred to the publishing of these pictures, saying that the attack raised “both ethical and legal questions for journalists.” He judged the issue to be a matter of “taste and decency.” The Met police have thanked journalists for refraining from naming the attacker.
In other news it is reported that Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating claims which suggest that officers may have broken the Computer Misuse Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to spy on journalists by illegally accessing emails.
Byline editor Peter Jukes has said that he “won’t be intimidated” by a legal letter sent on behalf of Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre and two of his colleagues at Associated Newspapers.
A blogger who launched a “campaign of harassment” against a council chief executive faces losing her house if she fails to pay £25,000 damages to him.
Internet and Social Media
The House of Lords Select Committee on Communications have published a report entitled “Growing up with the internet” [pdf] recommending an ambitious programme of digital literacy, minimum standards for those providing internet services and commitment to child-centred design.
Google, Facebook and other internet companies could be prosecuted if they do not stop extremist videos from being seen on their websites by people in Britain, as Ministers consider a new law.
Social Media Law Bulletin has outlined Twitter’s hate speech policy.
Socially Aware has published an overview of emerging cybersecurity issues.
Techdirt reports that a US law firm has been fined $71,000 for filing legal claims based on false documents as part of a ‘reputation management strategy.’
Chris Silver Smith on Search Engine Land has given some advice to defamation victims who wish to proceed in the current climate, given that Google has “essentially halted processing of defamation removal requests.”
Data Privacy and Data Protection
An ICO investigation into charity fundraising practices has led to two charities being fined and eleven being issued with Notices of Intent to fine. These practices included the secret wealth screening of donors in order to target them for more money.
A federal judge in California has found a privacy settlement between a class of email users and Google inadequate, asking the parties to come up with a more detailed disclosure of how Google intercepts and uses emails for targeted advertising.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is campaigning for a Congressional Review Action resolution which has been passed in the Senate to be blocked in the House of Representatives, as it would roll back the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s rules and prevent the FCC from writing similar rules in the future. They argue this would be dangerous for online privacy.
The Home Office has said that it is preparing to accept a ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union from December which challenged the legality of the Investigatory Powers Act.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
The Media Blog has pointed out the hypocrisy of the Daily Express criticising the BBC for its anti-Brexit bias when it has recently published a story with a misleading headline about ‘Brexit Boom’ with an unashamedly pro-Brexit bias.
Paul Rogerson in the Law Society Gazette has examined how the collapse of Britain’s local press “undermines the rule of law” and the National Union of Journalists has launched a campaign called ‘Local News Matters’ calling for a public inquiry into the “local media crisis” in the UK.
IPSO has upheld a complaint made on grounds of accuracy and privacy by Colin Hales against the Daily Mail regarding an article entitled “Pilot in DIY 14-foot plane he built in his shed is halted at Chinese border after being ruled a MILITARY THREAT during round-the-world trip.”
Roy Greenslade, who ended his daily media blog for the Guardian in January, is to write a weekly blog for IPSO, which will be unregulated as IPSO is not seen as a publisher.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court this week.
Last week in the Courts
On 22 and 23 March 2017 Popplewell J heard of an application for an injunction in breach of confidence in the case of Brevan Howard Asset Management v Reuters. It was subsequently announced that an injunction had been granted. A public judgment is expected to be made available shortly. There was a comment about the decision in the New York Times.
On 23 March 2017 Sir David Eady heard an application in the case of EZE Group Ltd v Taylor Marshall Ltd. Judgment was reserved.
The judgment in the case of Lisle-Mainwaring v Associated Newspapers  EWHC 543 (QB) was made available on Bailii this week. The claimant was awarded £54,000 in libel damages against the Daily Mail over allegations that she mistreated her late husband’s son and his family over inheritance claims. There is a 5RB case comment.
An application for permission to appeal has been lodged in the case of ZXC v Bloomberg.
4 April 2017, “The Commonwealth and Challenges to Media Freedom” conference at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies
28 April 2017, “Conference on Freedom of Expression Online,” Nicosia, Filoxenia Conference Centre, Cyprus
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In the case of Mohareb v Fairfax Media Publications Pty Limited  NSWSC 288 McCallum J had to consider a series of pleaded imputations including “The plaintiff is such an evil man that he is probably related to Satan”. She was not entirely convinced by this, holding
“Whatever belief one has as to the status of Satan, the proposition that a human being could be related to him is one I am comfortably satisfied is incapable of being literally true. It is an attribution of shared genetic material, the impossibility of which does not turn on the existence or otherwise of any god or devil. It is not capable of being literally true and that is its vice. That imputation will be struck out” .
In the case of Fraser v County Court of Victoria & Anor  VSC 83 it was held that the conviction of the defendant for display of obscene figures in public places was not inconsistent with the implied freedom of political communication. The defendant was an anti-abortion campaigner protesting outside the Melbourne Fertility Clinic by displaying photographs of foetuses.
Barrister Damian Sheales has successfully won a defamation case against Fairfax publication The Age newspaper over an article written by veteran racing reporter Patrick Bartley during the long running cobalt affair. Sheales represented trainers Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien whose cobalt charges have been dismissed on appeal in the Victorian and Civil Administrative Tribunal. Sheales sued The Age over a critical article by Patrick Bartley in 2015 about his handling of their case.
The Australian Press Council has launched its first Reconciliation Action Plan and welcomed the first indigenous newspaper, the Koori Mail, to its membership.
Manager of Shine Lawyers’ Professional Negligence practice Peter Coggins has discussed the ramifications Lloyd Rayney’s case will have on defamation law in Australia, calling it a ‘defining moment for Australian defamation law.’
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court is moving ahead with a criminal defamation claim filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen against former opposition leader, Sam Rainsy.
The case of Hudspeth v Whatcott 2017 ONSC 1708 concerned a proposed class action on behalf of 500,000 people who marched on the 2016 Pride Toronto Parade. The Defendants are led by William Whatcott. His co-Defendants are the “Gay Zombies,” who have the pseudonyms, Adam Zombie, Brian Zombie, Christopher Zombie, Douglas Zombie, Edward Zombie, and Frank Zombie, along with the unidentified financial backers. The Statement of Claim was struck out with leave to amend to plead an “opt in joinder action with a notice plan” however the application to dismiss the action failed. The background to this action can be found here.
A man from Campbell River in Vancouver Island has filed a defamation claim against the head of Surrey Creep Catchers after he was wrongfully accused of being a pedophile in social media posts.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Paulette Garnett has said that defamation laws will eventually tame “the Wild West” of the internet after she dismissed a claim by blogger Charles LeBlanc that the City of Fredericton breached his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Toronto defamation lawyer Brian Randoff has said that former war reporter Arthur Kent’s $250,000 legal cost award is a reminder that plaintiffs should never enter defamation actions hoping to make a lot of money.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s ex-director of communications, Jason MacDonald, has settled a libel claim filed against him by the National Council of Canadian Muslims after he suggested the group had ties to a terrorist organisation.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley has filed a defamation claim against chief minister Arvind Kejriwal over comments made about alleged irregularities and financial bungling in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), of which Jaitley was the president for about 13 years till 2013.
The Orissa High Court has passed a gag order in the case of three lawyers accused of sexual harassment by an Inspector of Police working in the Crime Branch of the state police.
A grandmother who claimed that she was photographed in a shop hiding her false teeth in her grandson’s buggy and rather than concealing stolen goods has lost a €75,000 defamation action against Claires Accessories UK Limited, and was ordered to pay the store’s costs.
Fiona Barry on the William Fry news section has written how delay can ‘defeat the taking of a defamation claim.’
In his closing speech, the lawyer for the Sunday World has described former Kildare footballer Brian ‘Spike’ Nolan as one of the least deserving cases to sue for defamation and breach of privacy over reports describing him as “the biggest swinger in town”.
Vivendi has filed a defamation claim against Mediaset regarding the Italian broadcaster’s campaign against them.
Harry Parkes in the Gleaner has examined free speech and social media in the wake of the recent arrest and charge of human-rights activist Latoya under Section 9 of the Cybercrimes Act of 2015.
The DPP has sought to explain Section 9 after this controversy, saying that it is “not criminalising libel.”
A magistrate has postponed a defamation case involving a former manager at the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools pending the outcome of police investigations into fraud and corruption allegations.
In another case about the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools procurement scandal, businessman Sandro Ciliberti has filed four criminal libel claims against Malta Today journalists, as well as seven further civil libel claims.
Labour leader Andrew Little over a defamation claim filed against him by the founders of a hotel chain, Earl and Lani Hagaman, after he made comments questioning the nature and timing of a contract awarded to them to manage a resort which receives government funding. Little has apologised for the comments but the Hagamans have called the apology “not genuine.”
A defamation claim seeking damages of £750,000 has been filed against Green MSP Andy Wightman following comments made on his blog.
A policeman, PC Javaughn Ballington, has been charged with malicious publication of defamatory libel after a video of a prisoner was uploaded to Facebook.
A University of Minnesota Law School professor has filed a defamation claim against a former girlfriend, who he says falsely accused him of rape.
The former general manager of Kansas City’s Hillcrest Country Club has lost a $12 million defamation case against Golf Magazine after a federal judge determined that he failed to show how the article was damaging to him.
A judge in New York has dismissed a $20 million defamation libel and emotional distress claim filed against Bloomberg Businessweek by an Irish man over an article about him concerning the theft of rhino horns and Chinese artefacts.
An editorial in the San Luis Obispo Tribune has said that the recent $1.1 million libel verdict against two Cal Coast News writers has sent a message to journalists to ‘get it right.’
Research and Resources
- Public Interest vs. Private Lives – Affording Public Figures Privacy, in the Digital Era: The Three Principles Filtering Model, University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 19, No. 5, 2017, Shlomit Yanisky-Ravidand Ben Zion Lahav, Yale Law School and Ono Academic College
- Data Privacy Rights and Democracy: Ireland, Europe and Beyond, Irish Journal of European Law, 18(2), pp. 5 – 14, Deirdre Curtin, European University Institute, Department of Law, Rober Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies
- A Re-Examination of Free Speech, Sarah Joseph, Monash University – Faculty of Law
- Fumbling the First Amendment: The Right of Publicity Goes 2–0 Against Freedom of Expression, Michigan Law Review, Vol. 112, No. 8 (2014), Thomas Elias Kadri
- Can President Trump Be Sued for Defamation Because of His Personal Tweets? Alex Walsdorf, University of Minnesota Law Review
Next Week in the Courts
On Monday 27 March 2017 there will be a hearing in the case of Bains v Moore.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings in media law cases are outstanding:
Mionis v Democratic Press heard 27 October 2016 (Gloster, Sharp and Lindblom LJJ).
Lachaux v Independent Print, heard 29 and 30 November and 1 December 2016 the Court of Appeal (Macfarlane, Davis and Sharp LJJ).
Lisle-Mainwaring v Associated Newspapers heard 12 December 2016 (HHJ Moloney QC).
PNM v Times Newspapers, heard 17 and 18 January 2017 (UK Supreme Court)
Flood v Times Newspapers, Miller v Associated Newspapers and Frost v MGN, heard 24, 25 and 26 January 2017 (UK Supreme Court).
Stunt v Associated Newspapers, heard 1 and 2 March 2017 (Popplewell J)
EZE Group Ltd v Taylor Marshall Ltd, heard 23 March 2017 (Sir David Eady)
This post was compiled by Georgia Tomlinson who is a researcher.