Category Archives: Media freedom

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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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.

Freedom risk as Europe tackles social media hate

Concerns were raised about efforts in Europe and the UK to tackle online hate and harassment, including by making social media platforms more transparent. As US writer Mathew Ingram reported in the Columbia Journalism Review, there was a risk of inhibiting free speech. Note that US law gives greater latitude on free speech, which is protected in the Constitution.

Lords threaten media on data and Leveson 2

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. 

Data Protection Bill ‘threatens journalism’

The Data Protection Bill making its way through Parliament in late 2017 could remove an exemption enjoyed by journalists under the current Act, meaning they can “process” sensitive information in breach of the normal rules, as long as it is for a story they believe is in the public interest. Read Roy Greenslade’s Guardian blog post on this here.

Note: this story was uploaded to Media Law Matters before the implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation directive, which toughens up data protection law, from May 2018.