The Sunday Mirror hired detectives to keep illegal surveillance on the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, according to papers submitted to court as part of the phone hacking claims against the paper’s owners. News of the claim prompted press reform campaigners to complain that the full facts of the hacking scandal were not coming to light because of a government decision not to go ahead with the second part of the Leveson Inquiry into the conduct of the press. Read more from The Guardian here.
MPs blocked a Labour amendment to the Data Protection Bill aimed at reopening the Leveson Inquiry into the conduct of the press – despite an impassioned plea by former leader Ed Miliband about the promises made to victims of phone hacking. Watch it here.
A reported proposal to test “digital trials”, with hearings held online, would be a threat to open justice and could confuse some defendants into pleading guilty, say critics and academics. Elsewhere, concerns have been expressed about local journalists having access to the court. Read a piece in The Guardian here.
The requirement to respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act has been extended to the Housing Ombudsman, the Surveillance Camera Commission and several other bodies. See the full list of new entries here (scroll down a short way).
For information about all types of organisation subject to the act, click on the FoI wiki.
A House of Lords vote calling for the second part of the Leveson Inquiry to commence was denounced as an attempt to curb press freedom. The Lords also narrowly voted for an inquiry into media conduct in relation to data protection, with the threat of draconian penalties. House of Commons approval would be needed for either step to be taken. Read more from Press Gazette, and The Guardian.
‘Ping pong’ threat as government hits back on press freedom
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock criticized the Lords’ actions, saying they would be a “hammer blow” to local newspapers. But some peers threatened a ping-pong battle with the Commons if the two Houses disagreed, reported Press Gazette on 18 January 2018.
Note: this story was uploaded before the implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation directive, which toughens up data protection law, from May 2018.
A reporter’s battle to see the diary of former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley went all the way to the Court of Appeal – which ordered the government to reveal nearly all of it. It covered the period when the minister was working on a major shake-up of the NHS. The case highlights several reasons why Freedom of Information is considered important to journalism and the public interest. Read more
The government promised to make no changes to Freedom of Information law after a review found it was working well. Journalists mounted a campaign against feared restrictions; top universities and local government complained that it was too big a burden. Read more