Category Archives: Freedom of expression

Drone arrest couple ‘may have strong privacy case’

The 24-hour shutdown of Gatwick Airport, caused by a drone, became a media law story when a man and woman were wrongly arrested for causing the havoc – and their names were widely published. The Mail on Sunday splash headline read: “Are these the morons who ruined Christmas?”

One commentator quoted by Press Gazette said their case had echoes of the coverage of the arrest of Sir Cliff Richard, for which he was awarded £210,000 damages against the BBC. He was never charged. The case reshaped the landscape regarding privacy and media freedom.

In a Guardian blog, Professor Roy Greenslade said the affair was reminiscent of the case of Christopher Jefferies, the innocent man who suffered character assassination in the media after being briefly detained in connection with a Bristol murder. But he also noted the public interest in disclosure.

The same Press Gazette report quoted Gill Phillips, the Guardian’s director of editorial legal services, warning that privacy claims were now taking the place of defamation cases – with smaller but still punitive costs involved. Privacy cases offered no defence of truth, and ambiguity over the potential defence of public interest.

Read more:

Couple wrongly arrested over Gatwick drone chaos could have ‘strong’ privacy claim against newspapers in wake of Sir Cliff ruling

Couple in drone incident hit out at media coverage of arrest but press point to police farce

MPs repeat call for ‘Cliff’s Law’ to stop suspects being named before charge after Gatwick drone front pages

The press ruins Christmas for former drone suspects – Roy Greenslade

Outrage as gag order blocks #MeToo story

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An injunction to stop the Daily Telegraph exposing alleged sexual and racial abuse by a businessman was “a devastating blow” to press freedom, the paper said in six pages of coverage.

The Court of Appeal granted an injunction to stop the paper naming the “leading businessman”, because the story probably arose from a breach of non-disclosure agreements – in which employees are paid money to stay silent.

The Telegraph said the ruling was “contrary to the age-old principle against prior restraint of the press”, which traditionally said the media should not be prevented from publishing stories that people wished to suppress – on the basis that they could be sued if the story was unjustified.

The editor said he was confident the junction would be overturned.

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Prime Minister Theresa May said in the Commons that NDAs were being used unethically. Labour MP Jess Phillips said: “It seems that our laws allow rich and powerful men to pretty much do whatever they want as long as they can pay to keep it quiet.”

Telegraph stories: 
The British #MeToo scandal which cannot be revealed
Opinion: The public have a right to know when the powerful seek to gag the vulnerable

Press Gazette:
Telegraph gagged by injunction

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Street photographers ‘at risk’ from GDPR?

Publishing candid street photography may fall foul of the General Data Protection Regulation introduced in May 2018, a number of writers have speculated. Facial features and even the fact that someone was in a particular location are now classed as personal data. Consent may be needed for “processing data” in the form of images, and people should know their “data” is being collected: a problem for photographers whose work involves snapping unsuspecting people. The impact of the law will become clear over time. Read more

The GDPR briefing on this website includes advice that photographers should carry privacy notices saying how images will be used, and giving contact details. It suggests that “legitimate purpose” is the best legal justification to cite for their work. It also links to a blog that urges a pragmatic approach: is it realistic to get written consent to use images from everyone at a particular event? Would there be an expectation that a photographer would be at a particular kind of event – which would reduce the need to seek consent from those present?

FoI now applies to homes ombudsman and others

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.

NUJ holds celebration for ethical journalism

The National Union of Journalists chose Valentine’s Day to celebrate independent, ethical journalism, prompted by memories of a broadcasters’ strike in 1985 that prompted the BBC management to resist attempts to stop it broadcasting a Real Lives programme about Northern Ireland. Journalism academic Tony Harcup commented on the NUJ website about the importance of ethical journalism for society. Read more.