Monthly International Law and Media Round Up – Suneet Sharma

11 12 2019

This is the first instalment in a regular new series from Inforrm highlighting press and case reports of new media and information cases from around the world.  It is intended to complement our United States: Monthly Round Up posts.  Please let us know if there are other cases and jurisdictions which we should be covering.

In the Papers

Australia

Christian Porter has meet the state and territory attorney general to discuss the amendment of defamation laws, the Guardian reports. Information on the agreements can be found here and are highly significant for the system. The Conversation considers the push to make social media companies liable for defamation.

Canada

Mondaq news alerts comments on small claims procedural changes.

Flare comments on libel laws impact on silencing victims of gender-based violence.

China

Radio Free Asia reports on how the Chinese government’s authoritarian tackling of free speech issues is impacting other jurisdictions such as Taiwan.

Italy

Verona local councillors are calling for a defamation action to be brought against Mario Balotelli after he complained of racist insults being made at a football game. Euronews reports on the controversial move which was taken after Balotelli complained that members of the crowd were making monkey noises in his direction. Reuters also reports whereas FT [£] covered the incident itself.

Malaysia

Malaysiakini has reported comments from Civicus Monitor’s “People Power Under Attack” Report which criticises the countries criminalisation of defamation.

Nigeria

P.M. News reports that Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, has called for defamation reform.

Poland

Poland’s ruling party has sued a law professor for tweets claiming the organisation was a “organized criminal group”, the New York Times reports.

Singapore

The Economist [£] covers Singapore’s new laws tackling fake news.

In the Courts

Australia

Wagner & Ors v Nine Network Australia & Ors [2019] QSC 284, the Network published its 60 minutes programme defaming the plaintiffs saying they were responsible for a flood which killed twelve people and destroyed the town of Gantham. The plaintiffs were awarded damages in the sum of $600,000 with $63,000 in interest against each of the five defendants, with the sixth defendants assessed in the sum of $300,000 with $31,500 interest. The Guardian reported the outcome.

Hanson-Young v Leyonhjelm (No 4) [2019] FCA 1981 White J found that the plaintiff, a Green Senator, had been defamed by a former political opponent who had accused her of being a misandrist and a hypocrite.  She was awarded of damages of $120,000.There was a report in the Guardian.

FOX v CHANNEL SEVEN ADELAIDE PTY LTD & ORS [2019] SASC 188, a case before the Supreme Court of South Australia. The case considered whether the production of raw footage of the defamatory broadcasts was require in considering whether it was defamatory. The Court confirmed it was not required.

Murray v Raynor [2019] NSWCA 274, a case concerning an email sent between tenants of a building concerning the appellant leaving their mailbox unlocked, thereby allegedly facilitating theft. An appeal was made on the basis that common law privilege should apply to the communication and whether quantum was assessed correctly. The appeal was allowed and an award of damages set aside.

Hive & Wellness Pty Ltd & Anor v Mulvany (No 2) [2019] VSC 757, a case concerning a number of allegations made regarding the production of honey made by the plaintiffs. The Supreme Court of Victoria struck out elements of the defendant’s defence.

Canada

The Ontario Supreme Court of Justice heard the case of Subway v. CBC, 2019 ONSC 6758 (CanLII). Subway brought a $210m defamation action against CBC and Trent following broadcast and publication of a Market Report. The Report stated that Subway’s chicken sandwiches faired poorly against competitors made of slightly more than 50% chicken. The defendants argued that the case was aimed at chilling public discussion of public interest matters rather than litigating defamatory allegations, bringing an anti-SLAPP motion. The action against CBC was dismissed whereas Trent’s were allowed to proceed as its defence lacked evidentiary support.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice handed down judgment in the case of R v. Marsden, 2019 ONSC 6424 (CanLII). The case concerned an alleged defamatory poster containing allegations of child abuse and misuse of funds. The requirement of known falsehood was not met and the commitment to trail was therefore quashed.

The case of Neufeld v. Hansman, 2019 BCSC 2028 was before the Supreme Court of the British Columbia. It was alleged that the defendant defamed the plaintiff in an interview as President of the British Columbia Teachers Foundation, which was then reflected in further broadcasts and statements. The resulting case enveloped a series of statements made across October 2017 to September 2018.  The cases considered the application of PPPA legislation, grounds under which the plaintiff’s action was dismissed.

Level One Construction Ltd. v. Burnham, 2019 BCCA 407, the Court of Appeal of the British Columbia handed down judgment. The appeal concerned a story run by CBC regarding the appellant’s dispute with the respondents. The source, the respondents successfully argued the defence of fair comment applied at first instance and that the broadcast was not defamatory. The Court found the judge erred in finding the comments were not defamatory and in the application of the fair comment defence.

Hong Kong

Evan P Jowers v Robert Emmett Kinney [2019] HKCFI a case concerning summons for the production of documents, dismissed because it was too wide. Outlines a number of basic principles in claiming defamation under Hong Kong law.

Leung Chi Ching Candy v Yeung Hon Sing [2019] HKDC 1428, a case concerning the management of the Cheerful Garden residential estate which concerned 6 alleged defamatory articles regarding the then Chairman. The Court systematically considered the articles defamatory nature, publication, “stings”, malice and relevant defences. Judgment was awarded in the sum of HK$400,000. An injunction was also granted against the defendant.

New Zealand

Low Vehicle Technical Association Inc v Brett [2019] NZHC 2936, the strike out of a public interest defence and award of costs.

Right to Life NZ Inc v Newsroom [2019] NZMediaC 2844, the Media Council took a complaint about a number of right to life oriented articles on the grounds that they were defamatory in nature. The Council affirmed the importance and applicability of freedom of speech to the articles.

South Africa

Roy Jankielsohn v Reagan Booysen and Others. The plaintiff, a well-known politician, brought claims against members of the opposition Youth League Party. The claim was successful and damages of R300,000 for each defendant were payable.    

This Round up was complied by Suneet Sharma a junior legal professional with a particular interest and experience in media, information and privacy law.


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