Upcoming event: 26 October 2013 – NUJ and MRC Conference – ‘The Internet and the Law’

[Booking / full details at Eventbrite]

When: Saturday 26 October 2013, 10:00 – 19:00

Where: New Academic Building, Goldsmiths University of London, London SE14 6NW


Leveson, royal charter(s), libel reform – UK law is changing and its impact on the internet is yet to become clear. The recent controversy over the possible inclusion of blogs in the new exemplary damages provisions in the Crime and Courts Bill illustrated some of the issues and concerns.

While changes to libel law have been hailed as creating a wider space for free expression, the Lord McAlpine controversy showed how ignorant many social media users are about libel. And worse still, many users of Twitter and other social media believe it gives them the freedom to abuse and threaten other users, women in particular.

The NUJ New Media Industrial Council and the Media Reform Coalition at Goldsmiths, University of London, are holding a one-day conference on the internet and the law on 26 October.


Libel (10.30-12.00) – chaired by Judith Townend (Meeja Law)

Online abuse and threats (13:00-14:30) – chaired by Professor Yuri Obata (Visiting International Researcher at Goldsmiths)

Regulation (15:00-16:30) – chaired by Angela Philips (Media Reform Coalition)

Further speakers TBC.

Free entry for NUJ members and Goldsmiths students and staff. Book your place here.

Further details and contact information:

Donnacha DeLong
Email: donnacha.delong@talktalk.net

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What data should the Ministry of Justice open up?

The Ministry of Justice has listed 43 unpublished data-sets that could be opened up for public use.

It is part of a public consultation on the National Information Infrastructure (NII), a new initiative for improving government data.

The government is currently identifying which datasets should be included. For the MoJ, these include case management systems, language services information, custodial data and much more [listed below]. So far there is next to no feedback on these.

chaseIf you think these would be valuable open data sets, you need to create a data.gov.uk profile if you don’t already have one, and ‘add feedback’ under the dataset you’re interested in. You’ll be asked how opening the data will be beneficial to society/ the economy/public services etc. and to give some [public] comments.

That would probably also be the place to raise any concerns or suggestions about the way in which the data should be released.

Thanks to Max Froumentin at the MoJ for alerting me to this.

The unpublished datasets (listed alphabetically)

Posted in academic research, access to justice, courts, criminal law, data, digital open justice, education, freedom of information | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

What Leveson missed: 10th anniversary conference of the Institute of Communication Ethics – 25 October 2013

Last week journalist/lawyer David Allen Green asked how many of his Twitter followers had actually consulted the Leveson Inquiry report since its release.  The instant response was fairly muted and confined to a handful of academics and campaigners.

Whether or not this reaction was representative of actual interest in the report, the exchange served as a reminder of Lord Justice Leveson’s determination that his volumes would not end up gathering dust on a scholarly bookcase (or, considering the size and price of the report, as unopened PDF files in a forgotten folder).

What will be the legacy of the report? To what extent will his recommendations be implemented? Beyond this, what did he miss? The last question is the theme of an event at the Frontline Club in October that I am participating in. The keynote speakers include Jake Lynch, author of A Global Standard for Reporting Conflict, and Stewart Purvis, co-author of When Reporters Cross The Line.

Here are the details:

The 10th anniversary conference of the Institute of Communication Ethics, to be held at the Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1OJ, on 25 October 2013, will explore some of the many crucial ethical issues which went missing during the Leveson Inquiry.

One of the keynotes is to be given by Jake Lynch, Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney and a Senior Research Fellow of the School of Communication at the University of Johannesburg. His paper is titled ‘Reporting conflict: The critical, realist approach’.

A selection of papers given at the conference will be published in a special conference issue of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics.

Cost of attendance: £65; students £10. For more information contact Dr Fiona Thompson, Director, The Institute of Communication Ethics, 69 Glenview Road, Shipley, West Yorkshire BD18 4AR; email f.thompson287@gmail.com.

Current line up (and it is increasing all the time) includes:

Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Jeremy Collins, Philip Cowan, Jake Lynch, John Mair, Jackie Newton, Deirdre O’Neill, Julian Petley, Judith Townend.

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Law and Media Review of the Legal Year 2012/13

A review of legal cases and legal developments over the legal year, from September 2012 (just before the beginning of the legal year proper) until the end of July 2013 can be found on the Inforrm blog. The Inforrm case tables have also been brought up to date: Media Law cases; Defamation cases; and Privacy cases.

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Media and communications at SLS 2013

A quick post to flag up the media and communication sessions at the Society of Legal Scholars Annual conference in Edinburgh, 3-6 September (early bird booking until 31 July), put together by section convenor Daithí Mac Síthigh (@macsitigh).  The Cyberlaw programme also looks great.

Tuesday 3rd September

A1: 14.00-15.30 (Special session on conference theme)

Ewa Komorek (Trinity College Dublin):
The problem which will not go away. Recent developments in the EU approach to media pluralism issue

Dimitrios Doukas (Belfast):
The Sky is not the (Only) Limit – Sports Broadcasting without Frontiers and the European Court of Justice

A2: 16.00-17.30

Alan Durant (Middlesex):
The DPP’s Interim guidelines (December 2012) on prosecuting communications via social media

Damien McCallig (Galway):
Intrusion into private grief: regulating the reporting and presentation of deceased persons in the modern media

Paul Bernal (East Anglia):
Defamation on Twitter: a defence of ‘responsible tweeting’

Wednesday 4th September

A3: 9-10.30

Yik Chan Chin (Hong Kong Baptist) & Yanbin Lu (Nottingham):
Defenses of Freedom of Expression in Chinese Right to Reputation Lawsuits

Päivi Tiilikka (Helsinki):
Margin of appreciation and balancing-criteria in the practise of the ECtHR when balancing the freedom of expression and right to private life – is there any consistency?

Jason Bosland (Melbourne)
Defamation, Statutory Reform and the Protection of Opinion in Australia and the United Kingdom

A4: 14.00-15.30 (Leveson Inquiry session, chaired by Tom Gibbons, Manchester)

Paul Wragg (Leeds):
Freedom of the Press after Leveson

Judith Townend (City):
An uncertain climate: Defamation, privacy and the resolution of disputes outside the courtroom

Karen Mc Cullagh (East Anglia):
Regulation of Investigative Journalism post Leveson

via Preview: media & communications at SLS 2013 at Lex Ferenda.

Posted in academic research, defamation, events, freedom of expression, human rights, leveson inquiry, media ethics, media law, media regulation, privacy | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Promotion: IBC Legal’s Protecting the Media 2013


Upcoming conference, 17th September 2013, Millennium Knightsbridge Hotel, London, UK

The ultimate review of key developments in the field of media law, featuring analysis of the impact of recent cases, such as: Leveson, Axel Springer/ Von Hannover (No.2) and Spelman v Express Newspapers.

Attendees will also benefit from discussion of the latest crucial issues, including:

  • Contempt and reporting restrictions
  • The post-Leveson landscape
  • The defamation bill
  • Privacy

For the agenda and to register go to:


Quote VIP code FKW82385MJL and save 10%

Posted in contempt of court, data protection, defamation, events, freedom of expression, human rights, journalism, leveson inquiry, media ethics, media law, phone hacking, privacy, promotion | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Eight months later: iCancer reaches fundraising target

Last autumn I posted something a bit off-topic for this blog, about the fundraising efforts of Dominic Nutt (the husband of a colleague and friend of mine at the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism, Glenda Cooper).

Dominic had been diagnosed with a Neuroendocrine tumour (NETs, also known as carcinoid tumours) which are very rare, which cannot be cured by drugs, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. He writes in the Telegraph today that so far, there is no sign that, following his operation, the cancer has come back.

Together with the author Alexander Masters, he set up the iCancer campaign, which has today announced that it has reached its target for the Oncological Virus Foundation, to enable further scientific research at Uppsala University in Sweden – with the help of 3,846 donors (significantly, £1.4 million was donated by a single donor, Vince Hamilton).

Information about the next stage of the project can be found here.

More details here:

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Coming soon: People Power – A user’s guide to democracy

peoplepowerAn “accessible guide to democracy in Britain” will be published by Bantam Press (Transworld) next month, covering topics including national and local government,  free speech, the internet and the rule of law.

The author of People Power, Dan Jellinek, is a journalist and co-founder of Headstar, a publisher specialising in technology and social issues (I met Dan when we briefly shared the same office space in Brighton and spoke to him about various media law related issues when he was writing the book).

Here’s the information, from the publisher’s site:

As protestors around the world risk their lives in pursuit of democracy, in the UK the word has never seemed so tarnished. Surveys regularly show our politicians are not liked, not trusted and not wanted. Voter turnout is shockingly low, and episodes such as the MPs’ expenses scandal serve to confirm the opinion that public officials are all as bad as each other.

So what is the answer?

Giving us unprecedented access to the corridors of power, Dan Jellinek provides a unique and accessible guide to democracy in Britain, explaining how its elements work – from national and local government to free speech, the internet and the rule of law – and the role that we, the public, need to play to keep the wheels turning.

If you want to know how your small actions can bring about big changes, how you can improve your lot and the lives of others, then you must read this book. Stand up and be counted. The power is in your hands.

It’s available to pre-order for 4 July here (ebook and hardback); details on the publisher’s site here.

Posted in access to justice, blogging, defamation, media law, media law resources, media regulation, press freedom | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Privacy and restrictions on disclosure in Tribunals

As a postscript to my post on open courts and the ‘right to be forgotten’:

PA Media Lawyer has highlighted that a new Rule 50 of the Employment Tribunal Regulations 2013 stipulates a new provision for “Privacy and restrictions on disclosure” (PA: subscription required).

In Mr Justice Underhill’s Review of the employment tribunal rules published in 2012 he discussed privacy, restricted reporting orders and anonymity, finding that (Meeja Law’s emphasis):

The current Rules provide a limited and sharply-defined regime governing where anonymity and restricted reporting orders can be made, deriving from the prescriptive terms of sections 11 and 12 of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996. These have been held by recent case-law to be out of step with the requirements both of the Human Rights Act and of EU jurisprudence. Our proposed new rule 55 provides for a more flexible regime which allows Tribunals to take appropriate steps to balance the important principles of open justice and freedom of expression on the one hand and of privacy and effective justice on the other. The [proposed] rule goes beyond the explicit rule-making powers conferred by the 1996 Act but we have no doubt that it is within your powers under the Human Rights Act. The complications of the different vires have regrettably made the rule rather more elaborate than we would have wished. It is perhaps worth saying that this is not a case where the requirements of the ECHR compel a British legislator or tribunal to take steps that are contrary to domestic policy: the existing regime was poorly conceived and drafted and required revision in any event.

The government’s consultation on the review [PDF] asked whether respondents agreed with the recommended approach to make the privacy and restricted reporting regime “more flexible“. Of 48 responses, 36 said yes, 4 said no and 8 were unsure. The 4 ‘nos’ were in the Business Representative organisation / TU category.

The majority of responses (75% ) to this question welcomed the new rule which is a simplification of what was considered by many to be an overly prescriptive provision. It was widely felt that a more generic rule for when the proceedings, or part of the proceedings, could be held in private would allow judges the discretion they need to decide on the most appropriate action in individual cases.

However, we did receive strong representations from groups representing the media, who felt that this new approach was contrary to the principles of open justice and out of step with the prevailing degree of openness witnessed in other courts and tribunals. These responses considered that a more flexible privacy regime represented a move towards an augmentation in the number of closed hearings, with parties putting undue pressure on judges to restrict the reporting of tribunals for fear of damage to a business’s reputation if cases were widely reported. These responses also demanded a fuller explanation of why Government was taking this approach to the privacy rules.

In response, in March 2013, the Government said (Meeja Law’s emphasis):

It is not the Government’s intention that the new rules on privacy should restrict the ability of the media and other commentators to report on proceedings where it is appropriate to do so. The old rules on privacy and restricted reporting were designed to deal with specific instances where hearings should be held in private, and covered proceedings that involved, for the main part, allegations of sexual misconduct or disability discrimination. Mr Justice Underhill felt that it was important that his review brought the provisions on privacy in Employment Tribunals more into line with the requirements of the Human Rights Act 1998 and jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and new rule (new rule 60) is therefore less prescriptive. Whilst the suggested changes to the rules widen the existing legislative provisions in this area, and give judges more discretion and flexibility in the rules for deciding whether anonymity or restricted reporting orders are required, such power already exists (see the case of F v G [2012] ICR 246). In F v G, the Employment Appeal Tribunal said that where anonymisation or reporting restrictions are needed to protect a party’s rights under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, an Employment Tribunal can use its general powers under rule 10 to order such privacy measures. Nonetheless, it is not the intention that simply because a power is stated explicitly in the new rules it will be exercised substantially more frequently than it currently is. In making these recommendations, Mr Justice Underhill has sought to balance the needs for open justice on one side with the need for privacy and an effective tribunal system on the other.

Government believes that Mr Justice Underhill’s suggested rule on privacy and restricted reporting strikes the difficult balance between the need for the justice system to be as open as possible whilst also ensuring that judges have the provisions they need to manage sensitive cases in the most efficient and effective way. The new rule on privacy is much simpler to understand for all parties, and provides judges with the clear case management powers they need to approach sensitive claims on a case by case basis. However, Government recognises the concerns of the media around this amendment, and agrees that it should not become the normal practice of tribunals to hold proceedings in private. As it is now, reporting should only be restricted where it is in the interests of justice to do so. To address these concerns the new draft of the rules makes clear that in making a decision on privacy, the tribunal shall give full weight to the principle of open justice and to the Convention right to freedom of expression.

These provisions are now Rule 50 in the The Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2013, entitled “Privacy and restrictions on disclosure” (Meeja Law’s emphasis):

50.—(1) A Tribunal may at any stage of the proceedings, on its own initiative or on application, make an order with a view to preventing or restricting the public disclosure of any aspect of those proceedings so far as it considers necessary in the interests of justice or in order to protect the Convention rights of any person or in the circumstances identified in section 10A of the Employment Tribunals Act.

(2) In considering whether to make an order under this rule, the Tribunal shall give full weight to the principle of open justice and to the Convention right to freedom of expression.

(3) Such orders may include—

(a) an order that a hearing that would otherwise be in public be conducted, in whole or in part, in private;

(b) an order that the identities of specified parties, witnesses or other persons referred to in the proceedings should not be disclosed to the public, by the use of anonymisation or otherwise, whether in the course of any hearing or in its listing or in any documents entered on the Register or otherwise forming part of the public record;

(c) an order for measures preventing witnesses at a public hearing being identifiable by members of the public;

(d) a restricted reporting order within the terms of section 11 or 12 of the Employment Tribunals Act.

(4) Any party, or other person with a legitimate interest, who has not had a reasonable opportunity to make representations before an order under this rule is made may apply to the Tribunal in writing for the order to be revoked or discharged, either on the basis of written representations or, if requested, at a hearing.

(5) Where an order is made under paragraph (3)(d) above—

(a) it shall specify the person whose identity is protected; and may specify particular matters of which publication is prohibited as likely to lead to that person’s identification;

(b) it shall specify the duration of the order;

(c) the Tribunal shall ensure that a notice of the fact that such an order has been made in relation to those proceedings is displayed on the notice board of the Tribunal with any list of the proceedings taking place before the Tribunal, and on the door of the room in which the proceedings affected by the order are taking place; and

(d) the Tribunal may order that it applies also to any other proceedings being heard as part of the same hearing.

(6) ”Convention rights” has the meaning given to it in section 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998(22).

via The Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2013.

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