Law and Media Round Up – 23 March 2020

23 03 2020

The news continues to be dominated by Coronavirus, with the Courts starting to become affected. On 17 March 2020 the Lord Chief Justice announced that no jury trials longer than three days must he be held in England and Wales. The Law Society Gazette had a piece.

On 20 March 2020 Civil Court guidance [pdf] on how to conduct remote hearings was issued by the Heads of Division. Solicitors firms and barristers chambers are switching to remote working. 5RB closed its physical operations on 18 March 2020,  Matrix Chambers is operating with reduced hours and most staff and members working from home.

On 20 March 2020 Mr Justice Nicol ruled that the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and News Group Newspapers which was due to take place on Monday 23 March 2020 has been adjourned due to Coronavirus concerns and to keep those involved in the trial and the public safe. Mr Justice Nicol stated “I recognise that I am not conducting a criminal trial, but the large number of lawyers involved, as well as the public and press who wish to attend, mean that the numbers involved would be no different”. The Guardian had a piece.

Following the death of Caroline Flack, there have been calls for new laws to protect celebrities. David Wolfe, chairman of the Press Recognition Panel, said “urgent action is needed to ensure people who are wronged get access to justice”.Mr Wolfe said “it seems the press has not learned from the past and urgent action is needed to ensure people who are wronged get access to justice”. The Press Gazette had a piece.

American citizens working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have been caught  latest in a series of tit-for-tat actions between the Trump administration and the Chinse government, as China’s foreign ministry announced that those with credentials expiring before the end of the year must surrender their press cards within ten days. The Press Gazette had a piece.

Internet and Social Media

In response to the collapse of many productions globally, Netflix has set up a $100m fund for creatives whose jobs have been affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to help support those in the community who have found themselves out of work. The Guardian had a news.

Twitter has announced that tweets which promote fake treatments for the coronavirus or deny expert guidance will be marked as harmful and removed. There was a piece on the Press Gazette.

WhatsApp is in talks to set up a dedicated NHS chatbot to allow people to access basic information about the coronavirus pandemic, sources with knowledge of the discussions told the Guardian, as the messaging service seeks to shed its growing reputation as a hub for disinformation about the pandemic. The Guardian had a piece.

Data Privacy and Data Protection

The ICO’s website had a blog post “Coronavirus and personal data” as well as a data protection and coronavirus guide for organisations.

The Panopticon blog had a piece on some initial responses to the Coronavirus pandemic from an information law perspective.

The LSE Media Policy Project had a piece “Colonising ourselves? An introduction to data colonialism”.

Surveillance

Computer Weekly had a piece “UK Coronavirus Bill relaxes restrictions on mass surveillance powers”.

The Government website had a news story on the SCC and ICO updating the data protection impact assessment for surveillance cameras.

Newspapers Journalism and Regulation

IPSO

The IPSO website had a post “IPSO Blog: Reporting of coronavirus COVID-19”.

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

Last Week in the Courts

On 16 to 19 March 2020 there was a trial in the data protection case of Aven v Orbis Business Intelligence before Warby J.  Judgment was reserved.  A ruling in the course of the trial on disclosure of sources is found at [2020] EWHC 666 (QB).

On 17 and 18 March 2020 the Supreme Court (Lords Reed, Wilson and Briggs, Lady Arden and Lord Kitchin) heard the appeal in Serafin v Malkiewicz.  The hearing can be seen here, here and here. Judgment was reserved.

On 17 to 20 March 2020 HHJ Lewis heard the trial in the case of JQL v NTP.

On 18 March 2020 Nicol J handed down judgment in the case of Johnson v McArdle [2020] EWHC 644 (QB)

Events

30 September 2020, 5RB Conference, IET Savoy Place.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Australia

The Full Court of the Federal Court has rejected an appeal brought by The Sydney Morning Herald against Chinese-Australian businessman Chau Chak Wing’s defamation win over an online article linking him to a US bribery scandal. However, the court reduced the damages awarded to Mr Chau , from $280,000 to $247,672, after the parties agreed the interest originally calculated on the payout was “excessive”. There was a news on the Sydney Morning Herald.

Controversial gambling identity and former brothel owner Eddie Hayson has been awarded $50,000 in damages after successfully suing The Age for defamation over an article headlined “Match-fixing link to gambler” accusing him of match-fixing. The Sydney Morning herald had a piece.

Honduras

The Committee to Protect Journalists had an alert addressed to Honduran authorities to immediately lift newly imposed restrictions on free expression and let members of the press cover the news freely.

Ireland

The Hyde and Seek childcare group has lodged defamation proceedings against RTÉ arising out of the RTÉ Investigates programme called Creches – Behind Closed Doors which generated great controversy and led to investigations by Tusla, the child and family agency, as well as by the gardaí.

The programme used undercover reporting to investigate the standard of care in the creche chain. The Irish Times had a piece.

South Korea

Nature had a piece “South Korea is reporting intimate details of COVID-19 cases: has it helped?

United States

The creators of the Netflix series “When They See Us” are being sued for defamation. Linda Fairstein, a former prosecutor who was part of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office when it tried the criminal case against the young men who became known as the “Central Park Five,” has filed suit against Netflix, producer and director Ava DuVernay and writer Attica Locke. The CNN had a piece.

A federal judge has dismissed most of the claims in a lawsuit accusing two of actor Jussie Smollett’s lawyers of defaming brothers accused of helping the former “Empire” actor stage a racist and homophobic hate crime. The Chicago Law Bulletin had a piece.

EconoTimes had a piece “Hillary Clinton says Gabbard defamation suit a bid to silence critics and make headlines”.

 Research and Resources

Next Week in the Courts

We are not aware of any media law cases being heard by the Courts next week.

Judgments

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

Aven v Orbis Business Intelligence, heard 16 to 19 March 2020 (Warby J)

Serafin v Malkiewicz, heard 17 and 18 March 2020 (UKSC).

Hijazi v Yaxley-Lennon, heard 12 March 2020 (Nicklin J)

ZXC v Bloomberg, heard 3 and 4 March 2020 (Underhill, Bean and Simon LJJ)

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