The first week of the coronavirus lockdown in the UK has had a profound effect on the conduct of all business, including that of the Court.  On 27 March 2020 the government announced that most court and tribunal buildings are closing during the coronavirus pandemic to reduce the risk of court users spreading the infection.

A network of 157 priority courts will remain open for essential face-to-face hearings. This represents 43% of the 371 Crown, magistrates’ and family courts across England and Wales. A further 124 court and tribunal buildings, which are conducting hearings remotely, will remain closed to the public but open to HM Courts & Tribunal staff and the judiciary. The Law Society Gazette had a piece. Some hearings will continue in the High Court and the Court of Appeal by telephone or video link, including cases in the Media and Communications List.

On 24 March 2020 Practice Direction 51Y (PD) in relation to video or audio hearings during the Coronavirus pandemic was issued.  There was an announcement on the Judiciary website.

On 26 March 2020 the Press Gazette had a piece on journalists being able to dial into Old Bailey hearings for the first time after an application from BBC, PA and Evening Standard journalists.  Reporters are required to contact individual courts to ask how they can dial into remote hearings, and until now criminal courts were largely refusing this on the basis of existing laws.

The Press Gazette had a piece “Government clears Mail publisher DMGT’s takeover of the i paper”.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s application for bail to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus has been denied by a British judge. Assange was denied bail after arguing that his release from a UK prison would mitigate his “high risk” of catching coronavirus.  District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said “As matters stand today this global pandemic does not, of itself, yet provide grounds for Mr Assange’s release”.  The Guardian had a piece.

Hacked Off had a press release “Tabloids allegedly offered Meghan Markle’s costar thousands of dollars to lie”.

Internet and Social Media

The Guardian had a piece “Trolls exploit Zoom privacy settings as app gains popularity’.

A Covid-19 WhatsApp bot set up by the UK government is finally working after problems during launch. Members of the public who message the bot can access pre-determined chunks of advice on symptoms or how to avoid spreading the disease. The BBC had an article.

Data Privacy and Data Protection

The ICO had a blog post “Blog: Community groups and COVID-19: what you need to know about data protection

The ICO released a statement in response to the use of mobile phone tracking data to help during the coronavirus crisis.

In the educational disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, governments and schools need to factor data privacy considerations in their selection criteria for which internet education technologies to use. Children’s education data are far less protected than health data and a list of popular distance learning options published last week by UNESCO – the UN’s education organization – illustrates these concerns. The Human Rights Watch had a piece.

Mishcon De Reya Data Matters had a post “Data protection: UK Government sets out its position on “essential equivalence” between the UK and EU”.

Infosecurity magazine had a post”COVID-19, Geo Tracking, and Privacy- Where to Draw the Line?


The Wall Street Journal had a piece “Health Surveillance Is Here to Stay”.

Authorities in the UK have begun using drones to direct the public to comply with public health measures announced on Monday to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The police and community groups say they’re focusing areas where people are not following government social distancing recommendations. The Register had a piece.

Thomson Reuters Foundation had a news piece “Why we need restrictions on coronavirus surveillance”.

Newspapers Journalism and Regulation

The Press Gazette had a piece “Marketers urged to ‘back don’t block British journalism’ as Covid-19 hits online advertising


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

Last Week in the Courts

On 25 March 2020 Warby J conducted a remote hearing via Zoom in the case of UUU v BBB.


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

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions


The Conversation had a piece “Privacy vs pandemic: government tracking of mobile phones could be a potent weapon against COVID-19”.


The global spread of COVID-19 has had significant impacts in most major areas of law, including Canadian competition and advertising law. Both federal and provincial governments in Canada have been introducing unprecedented new legislation and orders relating to key aspects of competition and advertising law, including price-fixing, price gouging, advertising of COVID-19 related products and services and performance claims (e.g., in relation to vaccines, testing, medical products and other therapies). Canadian Advertising and Marketing Law had a post.

Mondaq had a piece “Law Commission Of Ontario Recommends Sweeping Changes To Law Of Defamation To Address Challenges Of Internet Age”.


An Irish horseracing regulatory board’s security officer was awarded €300,000 in damages in a defamation case against the Irish racehorse trainers association.  A jury unanimously awarded Chris Gordon €300,000 in damages after his long-running defamation case against the trainer’s body finally concluded. The Irish racehorse trainers association will decide early next week whether it will appeal. The Irish Times had a piece.

The Irish Times had a piece “Billionaire wants Facebook to reveal who placed ‘fake ads’ about him”.


The Committee to Protect Journalists issued an alert aimed at the Philippine Congress which should repeal a recently enacted regulation that imposes criminal penalties for spreading ‘false news’ about the coronavirus pandemic. 

United States

Netflix has won a defamation case for the show When They See Us, which tells the story of the Central Park Five. The case was brought against the streaming service and its director, Ava DuVernay, by a US police training firm which complained the series had falsely portrayed a interrogation method called the Reid Technique. There was a piece on the BBC.

The Wall Street Journal had a piece “Brother of Jeff Bezos’ Girlfriend Sues National Enquirer Publisher for Defamation”.

Research and Resources

Next Week in the Courts

There will be a telephone hearing in the case of Gubarev v Orbis before Jay J on 30 March 2020.

On the same day there will also be a telephone hearing in the case of BVG v LAR before Nicol J.

On 31 March 2020 there will be a telephone hearing in the case of Tinkler v Ferguson before Nicklin J.


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)

JQL v NTP, heard 17 to 20 March 2020 (HHJ Lewis, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge).

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.


The Coronavirus lockdown is an ideal time for Inforrm readers to compose all those blog posts they have been thinking about for many months but been too busy to write.  This is an ideal opportunity to keep in touch with the media law world.  We can be contacted at