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Jack of Kent: Bercow makes a stand for libel reform

October 4th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

At the end of last week, news broke that think-tank MigrationWatch had threatened political commentator Sally Bercow with libel action following comments she made on Sky News in August about a Daily Express story on migration.

Her comments reportedly included reference to what she perceived as the oversimplification of arguments made in the article, which included statistics from MigrationWatch, adding that the story was “fairly dangerous propaganda”, based on case documents posted by author Richard Wilson on his blog.

According to a release from the Libel Reform Campaign, Bercow, who is the wife of House of Commons speaker John Bercow, received a letter from MigrationWatch’s chairman Sir Andrew Green’s solicitors demanding an apology and legal costs as a result of her comments.

Yesterday lawyer David Allen Green announced on his ‘Jack of Kent’ blog that he had been instructed to act in Bercow’s defence to any libel action. Discussing the context of the case he said the current state of free expression is “depressing”.

But our ‘banning’ culture in respect of free expression is not inevitable and can be reversed; there is no good reason why the first reaction of so many people to unwelcome statements is to get the law involved, and then there is no good reason for so many police officers, judges, and officials to allow them to do so.

(…) Sally Bercow could have just quietly apologised, perhaps with the pre-prepared humble apology which was attached to the threatening letter. But she chose not to do so. She has chosen instead to make a stand for her right as a political commentator to respond to news stories in the way she did. She wants to show how threats like this to political commentators – and also journalists – support the need for libel reform.

The case has also been highlighted by the Libel Reform Campaign as what they claim is “proof” of the need for defamation law reform. A new defamation bill is already expected to be drafted in 2011 by the government. Jo Glanville, editor of the Index on Censorship added:

MigrationWatch should not be using our libel laws to silence criticism of their approach over immigration. Sally Bercow now faces the same ordeal as Simon Singh with potentially bankrupting costs, years of her life wasted in Court, all for expressing an opinion. It really presses home just how important the coalition’s pledge of a libel reform bill is.

MigrationWatch had no further comment to make at this time.

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Are you on the j-list? The leading innovators in journalism and media in 2010

July 22nd, 2010 | 14 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Online Journalism

Updated 05/08/2010

Recent industry lists ranking the great and good in journalism and the media fell a bit short of the mark for Journalism.co.uk. Where were the online innovators? Where were the journalists on the ground outside of the executives’ offices?

So we’ve compiled our own rundown listing those people we think are helping to build the future of journalism and the news media.

Some important points to note:

  • There are no rankings to this list – those included are from such varied areas of work it seemed pointless;
  • We will have missed some people out – let us know in the comments below or with the hashtag #jlist who you are working with that should be included;
  • We’ve listed groups as well as individuals – with individuals we hope you’ll see them as representing a wider team of people, who have worked together on something great;
  • And it’s not limited to 50 or 100 – we’ll see where it takes us…

So here’s the first batch. There’s a Twitter list of those included so far at this link and more will be added in the coming weeks.

Click on the ‘more’ link after these five to to see the full list.

Tomáš Bella

Tomáš Bella was editor-in-chief and deputy director of Sme.sk, the Slovak republic’s most popular news site. He was author of the first European newspaper-owned blogportal (blog.sme.sk, 2004) and the first digg-like service (vybrali.sme.sk, 2006). In April 2010 he co-founded Prague-based new media consultancy NextBig.cz and is working on a payment system to allow the access to all the premium content of major newspapers and TV stations with one payment.

Paul Steiger

While ProPublica’s not-for-profit, foundation-funded model may be something commercial news organisations can never share, its investment in and triumphing of investigative and data journalism cannot be overlooked. The way in which it involves a network of readers in its research and actively encourages other sites to “steal” its stories shows a new way of thinking about journalism’s watchdog role. Image courtesy of the Knight Foundation on Flickr.

Chris Taggart

Paul Bradshaw’s description of his fellow j-lister: “Chris has been working so hard on open data in 2010 I expect steam to pour from the soles of his shoes every time I see him. His ambition to free up local government data is laudable and, until recently, unfashionable. And he deserves all the support and recognition he gets.”

Ian Hislop/Private Eye

Not much to look at on the web perhaps, but the Eye’s successful mixture of satire, humour and heavyweight investigations has seen its circulation rise. It blaized a trail during the Carter-Ruck and Trafigura gagging ordeal and has even lent it’s support to j-list fellow the Hackney Citizen to protect press freedom from international to hyperlocal levels. Image courtesy of Nikki Montefiore on Flickr.

Brian Boyer

Amidst the talk of what journalists can learn from programmers and what coding skills, if any, journalists need, Brian Boyer was making the move the other way from programming to a programmer-journalist. His university and personal projects in this field have been innovative and have got him noticed by many a news organisation – not least the Chicago Tribune, where he now works as a news applications editor. He blogs at Hacker Journalist.

Ushahidi

Originally built to map reports from citizens of post-election violence in Kenya, Ushahidi’s development of interactive, collaborative and open source mapping technology has been adopted by aid agencies and news organisations alike. It’s a new means of storytelling and a project that’s likely to develop more tools for journalists in the future.

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Liberal Conspiracy: Why Tom Watson opposed libel costs reform

April 1st, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

MP Tom Watson yesterday was criticised for his opposition to libel cost reform.

As reported by PA Mediapoint, Labour MPs voted against reform proposals to reduce libel success fees (conditional fee arrangements) from 100 to 10 per cent. Watson was among them.

He outlines his reasons for his vote, here, on Liberal Conspiracy.

But his critics are not satisfied. Jack of Kent, aka Allen Green, a legal blogger currently longlisted for the Orwell Prize, shared his take on Conditional Fee Arrangements here.

Under Watson’s piece he writes:

The crucial statement in this blogpost is “it could significantly reduce the chances of people receiving justice”.

There is no evidence put forward in this blogpost to substantiate that claim.

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