IPSO rejected a complaint from pop star Jamelia after she was named in a newspaper report about her estranged step-brother, who was convicted of murder. The Editor’s Code says relatives of criminals should not normally be identified unless relevant. The paper said there was a public interest because the killer was only the second person in the UK to stand trial under a pseudonym. Significantly, he named the star in his application for reporting restrictions, saying the case was receiving heavy media coverage because she was a “close relation”. Read more here.
The Manchester Evening News chose not to challenge an unusual decision to extend a reporting restriction on naming rapist Reynhard Sinaga when was convicted of assaulting 48 men. He was believed to have many other victims who may not have known they had been drugged and assaulted. Police applied for restrictions to protect those unknown victims. Unusually, a decision was taken to keep the restrictions in place until sentencing, after Christmas, because “there were concerns about the availability for counselling services over the holiday period,” wrote reporter Beth Abitt. A rare case of a paper deciding suppression was in the public interest, perhaps. Read more.
A former MP complained of breach of privacy after The Sun published photographs of him allegedly “nuzzling” his face in a friend’s breasts. The Independent Press Standards Organisation found in favour of the MP on privacy grounds, saying there was no public interest justification. A further complaint on grounds of accuracy was not upheld. Press Gazette’s account of the saga shows the reasoning behind the ruling. Read it here.
Journalists protested when some courts announced they would no longer supply the media with lists of cases that were due to be heard – including charges and details of defendants – because of the General Data Protection Regulation. The Ministry of Justice quickly corrected the “misunderstanding”. Read more.
Media law trainer David Banks wrote a provocative blog post on the affair, in which he also asked why the lists are not available to the public.
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.
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.
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 gagged by injunction
Journalists don’t have the same freedoms in the family court as they do in others, but in a test-run aimed at improving transparency, lawyers who also blog are to be allowed to report cases. But they must prove their credentials. It’s only for a trial period. Read more (August 2018).
Journalism students spent a week monitoring 300 cases at Bristol magistrates’ court and found 50 of them to be newsworthy, but only saw a professional journalist on the third day of the exercise. They found deficiencies in the justice system – some of them pointed out by a magistrate. Read more in The Justice Gap.
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.
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.