The media hysteria surrounding the Royal Family continues to dominate the news agenda. Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger suggests that”There’s a reason why the royals are demonised. But you won’t read all about it“.
He goes on to remind Observer readers that “All three of the major newspaper groups most obsessed with Harry and Meghan are themselves being sued by the couple for assorted breaches of privacy and copyright. There is, to any reasonable eyes, a glaring conflict of interest that, for the most part, goes undeclared” and of the continuing phone hacking litigation against News Group and Mirror Group.
Meanwhile, Princes William and Harry issued a statement labelling a story about them published in the national press as “offensive” and “false”. The statement denied the allegations, stating that “for brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful.” The news received wide coverage in the national press including the BBC, the Press Gazette and The Guardian. The Press Gazette had a piece “Meghan Markle’s father could testify against her in Mail on Sunday privacy case”. Byline Investigates has a piece by Brian Cathcart entitled “Meghan Move is really about dishonest journalism“.
Associated Newspapers served its defence in the Meghan Markle action this week. This was accompanied by much media spin about how “robust” the defence was although there has been little or no legal analysis of the arguments being advanced (we hope to be able to rectify this shortly).
The Government website had a press release on legislation due to be laid by the government on the 16 January 2020 to allow for the first time the filming of sentencing of High Court and Senior Circuit judges in some of the most high-profile courts across the country, including the Old Bailey. The new legislation follows a successful three-month pilot that allowed not-for-broadcast sentencing remarks to be filmed in eight Crown Courts and has been welcomed by ITN, Sky and the BBC. The news received wide coverage in the national press including the Press Gazette, The Law Society Gazette and The Guardian.
On 17 January 2020 the Press Gazette reported on Guardian columnist Owen Jones, who has been the subject of an “unrelenting” campaign of abuse by far-right sympathisers. Jones made the comments at the hearing of a man accused of launching a homophobic attack on him in a pub last year. James Healy, 40, allegedly targeted Jones because of his media profile as an LGBT rights campaigner and left-wing activist. Healy, who has pleaded guilty to charges of affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, is facing a trial of issue to determine his motivation for attacking Jones. The judge, Recorder Anne Studd QC, will decide whether the assault was motivated by homophobia or political views. Other defendants who have previously pleaded guilty to affray over the incident are waiting sentencing.
Politics Home reports that former MP Ann Turley has threatened United, the unsuccessful defendant in her recent libel action, with bailiffs as a result of their failure to pay her costs.
The Press Gazette had a piece “Every national editor signs letter to Boris Johnson urging Lobby changes rethink”.
Congratulations to Adam Speker of 5RB who was appointed as a QC in the recently published list. There is a news item on the 5RB website.
Internet and Social Media
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has called on firms such as Facebook and Instagram should to hand over data about who their users are and why they use the sites to reduce suicide among children and young people, psychiatrists have said. The Guardian had a piece.
There was a piece on BBC on mobile internet and social media remaining largely blocked in Indian-administered Kashmir, despite a partial easing of curbs imposed when the government revoked its special status in August.
City A.M had a piece “Sky boss calls for ‘urgency’ over social media regulation”.
Data Privacy and Data Protection
Forbes had a piece “AI To Data Privacy: How Hiring Tools And Trends Will Drive Workplace Changes In 2020”.
Apple iOS 13.3.1 is about to launch with a new location privacy feature, following an iPhone 11 issue that allowed location tracking even when a user had turned it off. There was a piece on Forbes.
Techcrunch had a piece “Privacy experts slams UK’s ‘disastrous’ failure to tackle unlawful adtech”.
Italian data protection authority, the Garante, has announced an 11.5 million euro fine against gas and electric company Eni Gas e Luce for violations of the EU General Data Protection Regulation. Europe Data Protection Digest had a post.
Government-led mass surveillance schemes in Belgium, France and the United Kingdom were delivered a potential blow. While not binding, the opinion is already being celebrated as a victory among some privacy defenders, amid their larger efforts to curtail abusive policies that force companies to blanket retain the personal data of people for police and national security access. The opinion noted, among other things, that state efforts to combat terrorism must comply with EU privacy laws. The Euobserver had a piece.
Amnesty International had a piece “Digital surveillance threats for 2020”.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
The Press Gazette had a piece “Reuters report highlights journalists’ fears of reader ‘cynicism’ and ‘news avoidance’ in 2020”.
The Committee to Protect Journalists had a blog post on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s plan to step back from the pool system of news coverage and the Society of Editors raising concerns with Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the relocation of daily press briefings. Both moves could put the British press and in turn, the public at a disadvantage and risk setting an example for leaders and powerful figures elsewhere to similarly argue for more media restrictions.
The Press Gazette had a piece “Sun’s ‘romantic holiday’ claim for Love Island star and friend ruled inaccurate by IPSO”.
IPSO has published a number of rulings and resolutions statements since our last Round Up:
- 05411-19 Lennox v The Jewish Chronicle, 1 Accuracy (2018), 2 Privacy (2018), 3 Harassment (2018), Breach – sanction: action as offered by publication
- 05158-19 Bashagha v Mail Online, 2 Privacy (2018), 1 Accuracy (2018), 4 Intrusion into grief or shock (2018), No breach – after investigation
- 05157-19 Bashagha v thesun.co.uk, 2 Privacy (2018), 1 Accuracy (2018), 4 Intrusion into grief or shock (2018), Breach – sanction: action as offered by publication
Last Week in the Courts
On 13 January 2020 Steyn J heard an application in the case of RTD v MXE.
On 15 January 2020, Nicol J will heard the trial in the case of Dyson v Associated Newspapers. A copy of the Particulars of Claim is available on Lawtel [£] Judgment was reserved
On the same day Steyn J heard a meaning trial in the case of Sakho & anr v World Anti-Doping Agency. Judgment was reserved.
On the same day, Chief Master Marsh handed down judgment in the case of Musst Holdings v Astra Asset Management UK & Anor  EWHC 22 (Ch). The case is discussed in an news item on the 5RB website entitled “Rare defamation decision in Chancery Division”
On 16 January 2020 Jay J handed down judgment om the case of Wright v Granath  EWHC 51 (QB). The Judge dismissed Craig Wright’s libel action against the Norwegian Mangus Granath due to concurrent proceedings for a “negative declaration”. There was a piece on Cryposlate.
30 September 2020, 5RB Conference, IET Savoy Place. Interested readers should email conference@5RB.com
Please let us know if you have any events which you would like to be listed.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
An Australian Border Force officer who believed she had been in a “loving relationship” with a colleague for almost two years is suing her former lover for defamation after discovering he had secretly accused her of being a sexual predator. There was a piece on The Australian.
The Age had a piece “Nazi flag furore prompts move to tighten anti-vilification laws”.
On 13 January 2020 F L Meyers J handed down judgment in the case of Theralase Technologies Inc. v. Lanter, 2020 ONSC 205 awarding damages against 10 “John Doe” defendants in respect of defamatory internet posts. Law Times had a piece about the case, “How lawyers brought down internet trolls – without ever uncovering their identities”.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has filed a defamation claim against Kosovo’s outgoing prime minister, who has repeatedly said Rama was involved in talks about dividing up Kosovo along ethnic lines. Reuters had a piece.
Newshub reports that the libel action brought millionaire Sir Bob Jones’ case against filmmaker Renae Maihi will begin on 10 February 2020 in the High Court in Wellington.
MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee are seeking views from the public, media organisations and publishers, internet firms and other experts on proposed changes to the law on defamation. Scottish Legal News had a piece.
Index on Censorship had a piece “Charge, attack, restrict: The main ways Turkey silenced journalists in 2019”.
Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, sued The New York Times for defamation for falsely suggesting he once approved of accepting donations from the late accused sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. He his claim is based on an article headlined “A Harvard Professor Doubles Down: If You Take Epstein’s Money, Do It In Secret” with reckless disregard for its truth. Reuters had a piece.
A jury in Indianapolis has awarded a doctor $4.75 million in her defamation and fraud lawsuit against a Carmel hospital and medical group where she had privileges.
The jury found for the doctor, who claimed she had wrongly been accused of having alcohol on her breath while on duty. This is believed to be the first jury verdict in an Indiana Commercial Court. Indianapolis Business journal had a piece.
UK Investor Magazine had a piece “Donald Trump attacks Apple following privacy regulations”.
Research and Resources
- Disclosure, Exposure and the ʻRight to be Forgottenʼ after Google Spain: Interrogating Google Search’s Webmaster, End User and Lumen Notification Practices, University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 1/2020, David Erdos, University of Cambridge – Faculty of Law; Trinity Hall.
- Automated Decisions and Article No. 22 GDPR of the European Union: An Analysis of the Right to an ‘Explanation’, Elena Falletti, Carlo Cattaneo – LIUC University.
- Future Threats to Internet of Things (IoT) Security & Privacy: A Survey, Rejwan Bin Sulaiman, University of Bedfordshire; Glyndwr University.
- Blockchain and the Inevitability of Disputes: The Role for Online Dispute Resolution, J. Disp. Resol. (2019)., Orna Rabinovich-Einy, Haifa University – Faculty of Law, Ethan Katsh, University of Massachusetts Amherst – Department of Legal Studies; National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution.
Next Week in the Courts
On 20 January 2020 judgment will be handed down on behalf of Warby J in the case of Hamilton v News Group Newspapers Ltd
The following reserved judgments after public hearings in media law cases are outstanding:
Dyson v Associated Newspapers, heard 15 January 2020 (Nicol J)
Sakho & anr v World Anti-Doping Agency., heard 15 January 2020 (Steyn J).
HH Sheikh Mohammed bint Rashid Al Maktoum v HRH Princess Haya, heard 17 December 2019 (McFarlane P)
DXB v Persons Unknown, heard 14 December 2019 (Steyn J)
W M Morrison Supermarkets plc v Various Claimants, heard 6 and 7 November 2019 (Lady Hale and Lords Reed, Kerr, Hodge and Lloyd-Jones)
Please let us know if there are other reserved judgments which should be added to this list.
This Round Up was compiled by Nataly Tedone who is a media and entertainment paralegal.