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Privacy injunction statistics published by Ministry of Justice as part of new pilot scheme

March 19th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Legal

On Thursday last week the Ministry of Justice published a new report of “experimental” statistics relating to the processing of privacy injunctions at the High Court or Court of Appeal. This follows a recommendation by the Master of the Rolls committee.

The statistics relate to injunctions dealt with in any civil proceedings in the High Court or Court of Appeal in London where the court considers an application for an injunction prohibiting the publication of private or confidential information, the continuation of such an injunction, or an appeal against the grant or refusal of such an injunction.

The report shows that from August to December last year there were four proceedings in the High Court which “considered an application for a new interim injunction”, three where the court “considered whether to continue or amend an interim injunction which had previously been granted” and two where the proceedings involved a consideration of “whether to issue a final, permanent injunction”.

The statistics do not cover injunctions arising from proceedings dealing with family issues, immigration or asylum issues, to proceedings which raise issues of national security, nor to most proceedings dealing with intellectual property and employment issues.

The four applications for new interim injunctions were all said to have been granted by the court.

At the Court of Appeal one further proceeding was also recorded involving “an appeal against a grant or refusal of an interim or final injunction”.

According to the International Forum for Responsible Media (Inforrm) blog, which has looked at the statistics in more detail here, “none of these cases appear to have involved threatened media publication” as “no media defendants were joined”.

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Mail Online publisher: ‘If you don’t listen to your users then you’re dead’

January 24th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

Appearing before the joint committee on privacy and injunctions yesterday, Martin Clarke, the publisher of Daily Mail website Mail Online, shared some interesting comments on digital media, in reference to privacy, regulation and general approaches to journalism in a digital world.

The latest results from the Audit Bureau of Circulation (published in December) showed the Mail Online continued its lead ahead of other audited UK news sites with almost 85 million unique browsers in November.

So here is a collection of thoughts shared by Clarke before the committee on issues relating to the impact of the internet on the news industry:

Privacy:

If we were publishing really unpleasant, intrusive stuff our readers wouldn’t like it. One of the beauties of the internet is the feedback you get from your readers is pretty much instant in two ways.

First of all, you can see in real time who’s reading what stories on your homepage … that immediately tells me which ones they’re interested in.

Secondly, we have the comments facility and readers aren’t slow to let us know when they think we’ve been unfair or unpleasant. Quite often I’ve changed tack on a story, or the headline on a story or dropped a picture because of things readers have left in comments. That’s the beauty of the internet, the interaction between you and your readers is that much more immediate. If there were no privacy law no I don’t think it would make that much difference.

Regulation

You are dealing with an industry that faces big commercial challenges going forward. Digital is how newspapers are going to have to make their living, the economics of the internet are such you probably have to make big chunk of that living abroad. Any further regulation might compromise that, and then quite frankly we won’t really have an industry left to regulate.

… You think of the internet in chunks, press, bloggers, tweeters, but from the consumers point of view that’s not how they consider it. It’s an endless continuous spectrum that starts with what their friends are saying on their Facebook pages, what some tweeter might be saying, to a story they link to in a tweet, then go back on to Facebook page and comment … Pretty soon all those commenting systems are going to be bolted together. Where do you draw the line, where do you say right this bit of the internet is going to be regulated and this bit isn’t?

… We’ve had to wake up and deal, embrace a new reality … The internet is a great way to distribute news, it means newspapers are now back in the business of breaking news … alongside TV and radio and the people who had taken that privilege away from us. It’s gratifying as a journalist to be part of that. Equally it’s brought some negatives …. You can’t turn back the tide, we can’t say stop the internet world we want to get off.

On content:

The reason it’s different from the Daily Mail is because it’s a different market … I’m operating in a digital market where we do get feedback from the readers, I can see in real time what they’re really reading rather than what I might think as journalist they should be reading. In the digital world if you don’t listen to your users, if you don’t involve them, if you don’t listen to their tastes, than you’re dead. We don’t follow that data slavishly, that’s where I come in, it’s my job to mediate the light and the shade. So that’s why it’s different from the Mail.

Equally we do more showbiz…we do vastly more science, we do more political commentary, we do more foreign news because we’re not limited by physical space … It goes back to the point I made right at the beginning, if you’re going for scale you can’t just fit in a niche. You can’t say “we’ll be in the red-top end, or the middle-market or the broadsheet end”. Niches aren’t big enough on the internet to survive, so you have to be a much broader church.

You can watch the session in full on Parliament TV and hear from others who appeared before the committee, including Edward Roussel, digital editor of the Telegraph Media Group and Phillip Webster, editor of Times Online.

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Guardian: Ministers agree on terms of reference for privacy committee

June 9th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Politics

The Guardian reports today that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and justice secretary Ken Clarke have agreed on terms of reference for the committee of MPs and peers to look at the balance between the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

David Cameron called for a joint committee to be established following the celebrity injunction furore. The terms include looking at the issue of enforcement in online publishing, which has been at the heart of recent events and controversies.

According to the Guardian the full terms of reference are:

  • To consider the operation of the current law in relation to privacy and the use of anonymity injunctions and superinjunctions and to advise the government on any improvements that should be made.

In particular, to consider:

  • How the current law, both statutory and common, has operated in practice.
  • How issues relating to determining the balance between privacy and freedom of expression, including particularly determining whether there is a public interest in material concerning peoples private and family life, could best be decided.
  • Issues relating to the enforcement of anonymity injunctions and superinjunctions, including in relation to publication on the internet, parliamentary privilege and the rule of law.
  • The role of the press and issues relating to press complaints and self-regulation in the context of privacy matters, including the role of the Press Complaints Commission and Ofcom.
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Independent: Poll finds judges ‘too ready’ to gag newspapers

June 1st, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

The findings of a poll run by the Independent show  the majority of respondents believe “judges have been too ready to issue gagging orders” which enable the rich and famous to protect their privacy, the paper reports.

People appear to have little sympathy with those high-profile film, television and sports stars who have resorted to the courts to stop embarrassing details of their private lives reaching the public domain, according to the ComRes survey.

According to the Independent, which reported last week that at least 333 gagging orders have been granted in the last five years, 70 per cent of voters in the poll agreed that courts had been “too willing” to grant injunctions.

A total of 65 per cent believed that “celebrities and sports stars owe their lifestyle to their public profile so they should not complain about intrusion into their private lives”.

Although voters disapprove of the efforts that well-known figures make to prevent damaging headlines, they also believe by a narrower majority that privacy rules have failed to keep pace with the rapid growth of the internet.

This comes as a new account appears on Twitter publishing allegations of identities said to be being protected by injunctions. Following a previous case of a Twitter account publishing accusations against celebrities of taking out injunctions, as well as the wide Tweeting of individual identities said to be subject to privacy injunctions, the site reportedly confirmed it would hand over details about users if legally obliged to do so.

According to reports, just this weekend, in an entirely separate case not related to injunctions, a local council was allegedly successful in making Twitter hand over user details for a court case.

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Journalisted Weekly: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Queen and privacy

Journalisted is an independent, not-for-profit website built to make it easier for you, the public, to find out more about journalists and what they write about.

It is run by the Media Standards Trust, a registered charity set up to foster high standards in news on behalf of the public, and funded by donations from charitable foundations.

Each week Journalisted produces a summary of the most covered news stories, most active journalists and those topics falling off the news agenda, using its database of UK journalists and news sources.

for the week ending Sunday 23 May

Covered lots

Covered little

  • Southern Cross, in a critical financial position threatening the future of their 750 UK care homes, 23 articles
  • Mississippi floods, the worst since 1927, leave more than 4,800 people homeless, 11 articles
  • 35 Afghan workers killed by Pakistan Taliban in “most deadly attack in months”, 6 articles

Political ups and downs (top ten by number of articles)

Celebrity vs serious

  • Lady Gaga promoting her new album, 98 articles vs. two men to go on trial for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, 45 articles
  • Cheryl Cole wearing similar dresses to X Factor USA judge Paula Abdul, 91 articles vs.government commitment to 50% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2027, 29 articles
  • Kirsten Dunst talking about her new film Melancholia in Cannes, 54 articles vs.massacre of at least 27 people in Guatemala, 7 articles

Arab spring

Who wrote a lot about…’the Queen’s visit to Ireland’

Henry McDonald – 13 articles (The Guardian); Valentine Low – 8 articles (The Times); Sadie Gray – 7 articles (The Times); Gordon Rayner – 6 articles (The Daily Telegraph); Laura Roberts – 5 articles (The Daily Telegraph); Tom Peterkin – 5 articles (The Scotsman) and Richard Palmer – 5 articles (The Daily Express)

Long form journalism

More from the Media Standards Trust

Visit the Media Standards Trust’s new site Churnalism.com – a public service for distinguishing journalism from churnalism

Churnalism.com ‘explore’ page is available for browsing press release sources alongside news outlets

The Media Standards Trust’s unofficial database of PCC complaints is available for browsing at www.complaints.pccwatch.co.uk

For the latest instalment of Tobias Grubbe, journalisted’s 18th century jobbing journalist, go to journalisted.com/tobias-grubbe

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Guardian: Hunt rules out new privacy law

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has ruled out the introduction of a new privacy law, the Guardian reported today, following a meeting with justice secretary Ken Clarke.

This comes before the conclusion of a review of the use of superinjunctions by a special committee chaired by Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger, and expected shortly.

Hunt admitted the current situation was “bordering on farce”. Numerous gag orders have been granted to footballers, celebrities and other public figures and some of their names published on Twitter anyway.

After meeting with Clarke, Hunt said: “I don’t believe a privacy law is the way forward. We’re not minded to have a new privacy law but we’re not ruling out the need for legislative changes.”

See the full report here…

Earlier today the alleged details of a superinjunction obtained by former RBS chief Sir Fred Goodwin were raised in the House of Lords by Lib Dem peer Lord Stoneham, who was protected under parliamentary privilege.

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Telegraph: Lawyers apply for access to Sun journalists’ emails and texts

May 17th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal, Newspapers

Lawyers acting for a footballer at the centre of a superinjunction have applied for an order to gain access to emails and text messages sent by former editor of the Sun Kelvin Mackenzie and the paper’s employees, the Telegraph reports.

This follows comments made by Mackenzie on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in relation to superinjunctions in general, when he said that when he gets texts asking who the people are – “I always reply who it is”, he said.

All the time I get flooded by readers emails every week asking for the name, and sometimes I give it and sometimes I don’t.

At the time he said he responds “despite the fact I’ve been warned by various judges and lawyers that I face the prospect of contempt of court and the prospect of going to jail”.

In the Telegraph’s report Richard Spearman QC, for News Group, is quoted as saying that the application “was disproportionate”.

“It is a very major incursion into (Sun employees’) rights and News Group as a media organisation,” said Mr Spearman. “It is wholly unprecedented to ask for an order in this way, on the basis of such flimsy evidence and to such a large extent.”

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Superinjuctions and celebrity privacy case numbers revealed

May 16th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

The Daily Star Sunday yesterday published an A to Z list of 50 superinjunctions and “anonymous injunctions”, including one which allegedly relates to someone who has died.

Publication of the list follows a week of much debate after a Twitter account featured a string of allegations against public figures accused of having taken out superinjunctions, some of which have since been publicly denied.

This weekend the Daily Star Sunday reported there are currently 12 superinjunctions in existance, of which no details can be reported. The paper then lists the remaining “anonymous injunctions”.

This came a day after the Mail reported that between 30 and 40 celebrities currently have legal protection in place. On Friday the Telegraph revealed the courts had issued 80 gagging orders in the last six years.

The International Forum for Responsible Media reported it hopes to provide its own list from public sources, shortly.

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Kelvin MacKenzie: Online makes mockery of super injunctions

Technology is “making fools” of high court judgements in relation to injunctions, according to former editor of the Sun Kelvin Mackenzie.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today on Saturday, reflecting on Andrew Marr’s revelation last week that he had taken out a super-injunction to protect his family’s privacy, Mackenzie said there should not be any such protections afforded.

I am in favour of free speech. We get ourselves in a shocking situation now where there’s a sort of two-track society. There’s those of us who know what the allegations are and all the names of all the famous people, which are basically media folk, and there are the rest of the public who are denied of knowing.

He added that the “explosion” of the online world means allegations are instead just being published on sites based outside the US.

Allegedly intelligent high court judges … have absolutely no common sense on this issue or an understanding of how technology is making fools of their judgements.

Also speaking on the show was Desmond Browne QC, a member of the special committee set up by Lord Neuberger to examine the use of media injunctions by the courts.

I think there’s a substantial difference between someone who knows the name being able to go on Wikipedia, seeing that there has been a redaction and making a conclusion as a result, and something being plastered all over the front page of the Sun or the Daily Mail and I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the courts to simply give up in the face of something that may be accessible on the web.

On Sunday the Observer published a debate between Max Mosley, the former chief of Formula One who previously won damages of £60,000 from the News of the World for breach of privacy, and John Kampfner, chief executive of Index on Censorship, on the very issue of super-injunctions.

Mosley is currently trying to get the UK law changed in favour of “prior notification” before a newspaper publishes allegations about an individual. Speaking in the debate Kampfner claimed that if Mosley’s law succeeds “it will set back the cause of free speech by decades”.

Read the full debate here…

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Lord Lester ‘not enthusiastic’ about privacy laws

April 27th, 2011 | Comments Off | Posted by in Legal, Press freedom and ethics

Lord Lester today urged the newly-formed joint committee on the draft defamation bill not to try to tackle a privacy law within the legislation.

Giving oral evidence before the committee, where he praised the government’s draft bill, he said he was “not enthusiastic” about privacy law.

The one thing I would say to this committee is that if you want to kill defamation law reform you will start by going into privacy and saying that needs to be tackled in the same bill. Because I promise you the plan to have an actual bill come out next May and be enacted next year will not happen if you get involved in the thickets of privacy at the same time.

In a following discussion on the power to make decisions on a day-to-day basis on what becomes public knowledge, he added that he “strongly believed” in self-regulation.

That is why I continue notwithstanding in the Ministry of Justice’s draft that having regard to adherence to professional codes needs to be written into the responsible journalism defence to emphasise that the judgements are for the editor or reporter, not for the court … Judges are not editors, reporters and are not competent to act in place of editors and reporters.

The law therefore needs to encourage self regulation. The Press Complaints Commission needs to be able to give effective remedies to keep the courts away.

Ultimately I think that a free press is obviously essential to democracy and the judgements have to be made by the profession … you will notice that in all the fuss about injunctions, super injunctions and privacy, that is a fuss which is made very often by newspapers that earn a living by trading in publishing private information to the public and good luck to them, but if you take a newspaper which does serious investigative reporting … if you are a responsible profession and you then take advantage for example of my Reynolds defence you’ll be able to tackle that.

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