Law and Media Round Up – 10 February 2020 [Updated]

10 02 2020

Manchester United have accused the Sun newspaper of receiving advanced notice of an intended attack on the house of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and have made a complaint to IPSO.

The incident occurred on 28 January, when a group wearing balaclavas launched flares at the Cheshire home of the club’s executive vice-chairman. Graffiti was sprayed on the front gates and intercom unit, with the house sign beside it defaced with red spray paint. The newspaper confirmed a reporter attended “following a tip-off that there was to be a protest”, but it added it was not made aware of “what was to take place nor incited it or encouraged any criminal activity”. There was piece on the Zelo Street blog also on the BBC and The Guardian.

On 4 February 2020, the Government has insisted it is “committed” to media freedom after political journalists staged a mass walkout when only a selected group were invited to a briefing at Downing Street within hours of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on a UK-EU trade deal. Conservative MPs dubbed Lobby journalists’ Downing Street briefing boycott a “storm in a Westminster bubble” and a “mass outbreak of snowflakery”. The Press Gazette had a piece.

Hold the Front Page has a column by Tony Jaffa, “Freedom of expression – policy and practice

Byline Investigates has an investigation into the Mail’s famous “Plummygate”, the story which Hugh Grant said must have been hacked “‘Late Night Calls’… ‘phone switched-off’… ‘mobile data’… Unveiled: NINE suspicious references to private phone calls in one VERY controversial story”.

Finally, a reminder to media lawyers to register for MACLUG agendas and minutes – see our post here.

Internet and Social Media

Ofcom had a news piece “Parents more concerned about their children online”.

The UK government’s advisory body on AI ethics has recommended that new regulation should be passed to control the algorithms that promote content such as posts, videos and adverts on social networks. The government should also consider requiring social media platforms to allow independent researchers access to their data if they are researching issues of public concern, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) suggested. The Guardian had a piece.  There was also a press release on the Government website “CDEI calls for overhaul of social media regulation”.

The Press Gazette had a piece “Twitter and Google grow profits as Facebook slumps amid ‘fake news’ and privacy concerns”.

Data Privacy and Data Protection

The ICO’s website had a statement “Joint statement warning FCA-authorised firms and insolvency practitioners to be responsible when dealing with personal data’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the UK will seek to diverge from EU data protection rules and establish their own ‘sovereign’ controls in the field. His comments came despite the EU affirming that the UK should “fully respect EU data protection rules.”
In a written statement to the House of Commons, the Prime Minister said that the UK will “develop separate and independent policies” in a range of fields, including data protection, adding that the government would seek to maintain high standards in so doing. Euractiv had a piece.

Hawktalk had a post “Adequacy of the UK’s data protection regime; now the UK has left the EU, the battle lines are drawn”.
Mishcon de Reya Data Matters had a post “Data Protection in the transition period”.

Ireland’s data protection commissioner has launched an inquiry into the processing of personal data of users of the Tinder dating app. “The identified issues pertain to MTCH Technology Services Limited’s ongoing processing of users’ personal data with regard to its processing activities in relation to the Tinder platform, the transparency surrounding the ongoing processing, and the company’s compliance with its obligations with regard to data subject right’s requests,” the regulator said in a statement. Reuters had a piece.

The Irish Times had a pieceGerman regulator says Irish data protection commission is being ‘overwhelmed’”.

Surveillance

An independent UN investigator has criticised the British government’s decision to host a surveillance company whose technology is allegedly used by repressive regimes to intercept the private messages of journalists and human rights activists.

David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, said democratic governments “should be outraged and should develop global standards for the exports of such tools” that respected the rule of law and human rights. The Guardian had a piece.

The Guardian had a piece “Welfare surveillance system violates human rights, Dutch court rules”.

Newspapers Journalism and Regulation

The UK Picture Editors’ Guild wrote to Number 10 this week demanding assurances that the “status quo will be preserved” and the press continue to be given access to the Prime Minister. The Press Gazette had a piece.

iMediaethics has a piece about an IPSO ruling entitled, “UK newspaper reported on 2-year-old’s leukemia diagnosis without mother’s OK“.

IPSO

IPSO has published a number of rulings and resolutions statements since our last Round Up:

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

We are not aware of any statements in open court in the past week.

Last Week in the Courts

On 4 to 7 February 2020 Warby J heard the trial in the case of Sube v News Group Newspapers.  Judgment was reserved.

On 4 and 5 February 2020 the Court of Appeal (Etherton MR, David Richards and Coulson LJJ) heard the appeal in the case of Canada Goose Retail v Persons Unknown. The hearing was live streamed and can be seen here and here.  Judgment was reserved.

On 5 February 2020 Nicol J handed down the judgement in the trial of preliminary issues Dyson v Associated Newspapers [2020] EWHC 188 (QB) in which he found in favour of the claimant. Nicol J held that the articles complained of were defamatory at common law and that the words in the articles contained defamatory meaning.

Events

3 March 2020, 17.30-19.00  Bringing Claims for mass data-breaches, BIICL, at Mischon de Reya

14 March 2020, Media Democracy Festival, Birkbeck University, Central London. Free registration tickets are now available.

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

Albania

The Tirana Times had a piece “Defamation lawsuits have increased in backdrop of govt’s pending anti-libel package

Australia

In the case of Cheng v Lok [2020] SASC 14. the claimant, an Adelaide lawyer was awarded defamation damages in the total sum of $750,000 in a claim against a woman who gave his firm a bad review on Google..  Default judgment had been entered in favour of the plaintiff. ABC News had a piece.

The Sydney Morning Herald had a piece “Facebook, Microsoft warn defamation laws risk censoring speech”.

Canada

On 3 February 2020 judgment was handed down in the case of Labourers’ International Union of North America, Local 183 v. Castellano, 2020 ONCA 71.  The Court dismissed the defendant’s appeal against a refusal to grant an anti-SLAPP motion but allowed the appeal in part against the injunctive relief granted by the Judge.

A former member of Parliament and leader of a fringe federal political party is suing a prominent political commentator and strategist for defamation. Maxime Bernier alleges Warren Kinsella repeatedly branded him as a racist on social media and blog posts before, during and after the federal election campaign last year. The Calgary Herald had a piece.

Iran

 The Committee to Protect Journalists had an alert on Branch 6 of Tehran’s Media Court, which found three local editors-in-chief–of the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), the Bultannews news website, and the energy news website NeftEMA–guilty of “spreading false news and defamation”. Neither the court nor the news reports disclosed the names of the editors. The Committee to Protect Journalists has urged Iranian authorities to immediately drop the false news and defamation charges.

Ireland

Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams wants the High Court to order the BBC to hand over more information he says he requires for a defamation case he is taking against the broadcaster.

He is suing the BBC, claiming it defamed him when it falsely alleged he had sanctioned the killing of former Sinn Féin official Denis Donaldson who worked for decades as a spy for the British. The Irish Times had a piece.

The Irish Times had a piece “Turf Club’s security head claims defamation over yard inspection letter”.

Malaysia

The Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) is counter-suing a couple for defamation over an incident in which the council was accused of abusing a stray dog.

In the counterclaim, the council and two of its officers accused the couple of uttering defamatory remarks and making false accusations against them during the incident last year. Malaysiakini had a news post.

Free Malaysia Today had a piece “Bring it on, Zuraida tells Saifuddin on his defamation suit against her”.

United States

U.S. President Donald Trump asked a New York state trial judge to put on hold a defamation lawsuit by E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of rape, saying a successful appeal in a separate defamation case could shield him from both lawsuits. Reuters had a news piece.

Music producer Lukasz Gottwald has won several pre-trial arguments in his defamation case against pop star Kesha. Gottwald sued Kesha in 2014, saying she had fabricated rape claims against him to get out of a recording contract.

A New York judge said the star had defamed Gottwald when she texted Lady Gaga claiming he had raped Katy Perry. Kesha was also told to pay interest of $373,671 (£289,000) on late royalties. The BBC had a piece.

ABC News had a piece “Jeff Bezos asks court to dismiss defamation suit”.

Research and Resources

Next Week in the Courts

On 11 February 2020 the Court of Appeal (Etherton MR, Lewison and Rose LJJ) will hand down judgment in the case of Fearn v. The Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery (heard 21 and 22 January 2020).

[Update] On 11 February 2020 Steyn J will give judgment Sakho & anr v World Anti-Doping Agency (heard 15 January 2020).

[Update] On 12 February 2020 Nicol J will hear the trial in the case of Hathi v News Corporation.

Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearings in media law cases are outstanding:

Sube v News Group Newspapers, heard 4 to 7 February 2020 (Warby J)

Canada Goose Retail v Persons Unknown. heard 4 and 5 February 2020 (Etherton MR, David Richards and Coulson LJJ)

Various Claimants v MGN, heard, 28 to 31 January 2020 (Mann J)

Dawson-Damer & Ors v Taylor Wessing LLP & Ors, heard 29 and 30 January 2020 (Floyd, Newey and Arnold LJJ)

Sakho & anr v World Anti-Doping Agency., heard 15 January 2020 (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.


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