Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich has successfully passed the first stage of his libel claim against journalist Catherine Belton and publisher HarperCollins for allegations made in the best-selling book, Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On The West (Abramovich v HarperCollins and Catherine Belton [2021] EWHC 3154 (QB)).

On Wednesday 24 November 2021, Mrs Justice Tipples found that all nine of the meanings of allegations relating to Abramovich’s purchase of Chelsea FC “on the directions of President Putin and the Kremlin” were defamatory. The Press Gazette has more here.

Judgement was also handed down on meaning in Public Joint Stock Company Rosneft Oil Company v HarperCollins and Catherine Belthon [2021] EWHC 3141 (QB), the second libel claim to result from Putin’s People (above). Only the first meaning, the allegation that Severnaya Neft was purchased for $300 million above the accepted valuation, and that this overpayment went to President Putin or his KGB associates, was found to be defamatory. Meanings 2 through 4 were not. It was later announced that Rosneft had discontinued its claim with no order as to costs.

Conservative councillor Paul Nickerson has agreed to pay substantial damages and legal costs to Jeremy Corbyn for a tweet containing a fake photograph of Mr Corbyn laying a poppy wreath at the scene of the Liverpool terrorist attack. Mr Nickerson has apologised and taken “full responsibility” for the post, adding that it gave the “completely untrue impression” that Mr Corbyn supports terrorist violence. Mr Corbyn said the tweet “did a disservice to all those affected by the attack and their loved ones” and announced he would use the settlement to support charities close to his heart.

On Wednesday 24 November 2021, the BBC and Sky News successfully applied to lift reporting restrictions in the case of Tony Hickman, a man with learning disabilities and autism, who has been detained 100 miles from his family since 2001. The news organisations had argued that the restrictions imposed were a disproportionate restriction on the media’s, the public’s and Mr Hickman’s parents’ right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the ECHR.

The Transparency Project has published its written evidence to the Justice Committee’s ongoing inquiry on open justice: court reporting in the digital age.

Inforrm had a piece on what the recent decision in Park v Hall & Anr [2021] EWHC 2824 (QB) means for the standards litigants-in-person are held to in libel claims.

Internet and Social Media

Graham Smith has an article on the Law Commission’s proposals to reform communications offences by replacing s.127 Communications Act 2003 and the Malicious Communications Act 1988. He criticises the structure of the conduct element and the vagueness around who was targeted by the communication, saying that these risks chilling effects.

The Strasbourg Observes blog has produced an analysis of Hurbain v Belgium, a case handed down by the ECtHR in June of this year, which expands on the scope of the right to be forgotten by revealing which factors should be examined when balancing the right to freedom of expression of the publisher and the public under Article 10.

Data Privacy and Data Protection

Apple has filed a claim against NSO Group accusing the Israeli technology firm of surveilling and targeting its users through its “Pegasus” software. The Tech Giant is also seeking a permanent injunction banning NSO Group from using its software, services or devices “to prevent further abuse and harm to its users.” The complaint alleges NSO Group’s FORCEDENTRY, “an exploit for a now-patched vulnerability,” was used to access users’ devices and install the Pegasus software, which Apple said was used to attack users “with dangerous malware and spyware.” More information can be found on IAPP (Europe’s Data Protection Digest).

HawkTalk blog has published the response of Amberhawk Training Ltd to the DCMS Consultation document Data: a new direction. The response is the culmination of 7 blogs produced over the consultation period, all of which have been shared on this weekly Round Up.

This week, the ICO set out clear data protection standards that companies like Google must meet to safeguard people’s privacy online when developing new advertising technologies.

The Panopticon Blog has an article on how the recent decision in Killock & Veale & others v Information Commissioner has brought clarity to judicial interpretations of s.166 Data Protection Act 2018 (right to apply to the Tribunal for an order that the ICO progress a complaint made to it).

The Panopticon Blog also has an article on the recent case of NHS Business Authority v Information Commissioner & Spivack [2021] UKUT 192 (AAC) and how the decision affects the problem data controllers encounter when principally anonymous datasets can re-identify data subjects when taken with other publicly available information.

Surveillance

The Camden and Islington NHS Trust has been asked why it introduced a new high-tech system, Oxevision, that allows staff to carry out video monitoring of metal health service-users in their bedrooms and while they are sleeping, without their consent.

Art, Music and Copyright

The Copyright (Rights and Remuneration of Musicians) Bill has been published, proposing new laws for equitable remuneration for streaming, contract adjustment, right of revocation and transparency. IP Kat has an article on the new Bill here.

Newspapers Journalism and Regulation

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has said that she is “minded to” grant News UK’s application to end legal restrictions guaranteeing the editorial independence of The Times and Sunday Times, after hearing the “significant” impact on the publisher’s finances. News UK has assured that a change in the law would not affect the plurality of the UK media market. The Press Gazette has more information here.

The Press Gazette has an article by Elle Todd, partner at Reed Smith, on the Information Commissioner’s Office new draft journalism code of practice and the questions it leaves unanswered.

Hacked Off has an article exposing the true nature of the Local Democracy Reporting Service, which was launched in 2019 as a network of local reporters funded by the BBC, but has instead become a system that subsidises the corporate press with licence fee funds.

IPSO

We are unaware of any IPSO rulings in the past week.

New Issued Cases

There were three defamation (libel and slander) cases issued on the media and communications list last week along with one harassment claim and one misuse of private information claim. Two applications for permission to read a statement in open court were also made.

Last Week in the Courts

The judgement in Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin v Secretary of State for the Home Department QB-2020-002120 was published this week. Sir Andrew Nicol found that the proceedings amounted to an abuse of process and should be struck out accordingly.

As already mentioned, on 24 November 2021, Tipples J handed down judgment in the cases of Abramovich v HarperCollins and Catherine Belton [2021] EWHC 3154 (QB)) and Public Joint Stock Company Rosneft Oil Company v HarperCollins and Catherine Belthon [2021] EWHC 3141 (QB).

Events

Mishcon de Reya is hosting an in conversation with professional footballer Leigh Nicol on phone hacking and mental health. 15:00-16:00 Monday 29 November 2021, register here.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Australia

On 24 November 2021 White J handed down judgment in the case of Dutton v Bazzi [2021] FCA 1474. Peter Dutton, Defence Minister, has won his defamation case against Shane Bazzi, a refugee advocate with a Twitter following of 13,000, for a tweet in which Bazzi called Dutton a “rape apologist.” The New York Times considers the implications of the ruling for political commentary on social media here.

On 17 November 2021 Judge Schammer handed down judgment in the case of Turtur AO v Connor [2021] SADC 127 damages of Aus$30,000 were awarded in respect of Facebook posts.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has proposed a new defamation law that would require social media platforms to reveal the identities of anonymous online trolls or be required to pay defamation pay-outs. Bloomberg has more information here. The Guardian reports here. The Sydney Morning Herald reports here. Inforrm published an article that considered whether these proposals will achieve their aim to make social media less toxic.

In the latest development in the ongoing Ben Roberts Smith defamation claim against the Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times over a series of allegations of war crime, a court has ruled that a secret report produced by Channel Seven into Roberts Smith will not be available in the proceedings.

The Data Protection Report blog has an article on the changing landscape of Australia’s privacy law, with the proposed implementation of the Privacy Legislation Amendment (Enhancing Online Privacy and Other Measures) Bill 2021 (“Online Privacy Bill”).

Canada

University Professor Farhan Chak has succeeded in his defamation claim against former Sun Media TV host Ezra Levant following a false allegation that Chak was involved in a 1993 nightclub shooting.

 The appeal by the Claimant was dismissed in the SLAPP defamation case of Blair v Ford 2021 ONCA 841. The cross appeal allowed in part.

Hong Kong

A new anti-doxxing law has come into force with the coming into effect of the Personal Data (Privacy) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021. DLA Piper sets out a summary of the key aspects of the new law here.

Israel

A woman has been made to pay NIS 42,000 ($13,000) in damages and write a letter of apology for defamatory statements made about a senior doctor at Sheba Hospital over her endorsement of coronavirus vaccines.

United States

A judge has ordered the release of rapper Cardi B’s medical records in the STD libel and defamation lawsuit against YouTuber Latasha Kebe. Cardi avers that Kebe’s allegations that Cardi used to be a prostitute and cocaine user and had contracted herpes and HPV damage her reputation.

Research and Resources

Next Week in the Courts 

On 30 November and 1 December 2021, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in ZXC v Bloomberg LP. The case gives the court an opportunity to answer one of the most important questions which has emerged in English privacy law in recent years; does a person who has not been charged with an offence have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a police investigation in their activities? Inforrm published an article on privacy and reputation harm this week, in anticipation of the hearing. The Privacy Perspective Blog has an article on the upcoming trial here.

Associated Newspapers Limited v Duchess of Sussex, heard 9-11 November 2021 (The Master of the Rolls, The President of the Queen’s Bench Division and Bean LJ)

Reserved Judgments

GUH v KYT, heard on 28 October 2021 (Collins Rice J)

Soriano v Forensic News, heard 6 and 7 October 2021 (Sharp P, Elisabeth Laing and Warby LJ)

Qatar Airways Group Q.S.C.S v Middle East News UK Limited and others heard on 4 October 2021 (Saini J)

Masarir v Kingdom of Saudi Arabia., heard 15 and 16 June 2021 (Julian Knowles J)

Riley v Murray, heard 10 to 12 May 2021 (Nicklin J) 

Kumlin v Jonsson, heard 24 and 25 March 2021 (Julian Knowles J).

Miller v College of Policing and another, heard 9 and 10 March 2021 (Sharp P,  Haddon-Cave and Simler LJJ)

Ansari v Amini, heard 10-11 November 2020 (Julian Knowles J)

This Round Up was compiled by Colette Allen who is the host of Newscast on Dr Thomas Bennett and Professor Paul Wragg’s The Media Law Podcast (@MediaLawPodcast).