Home > contempt of court, journalism, Libel > The legal eagles are circling…

The legal eagles are circling…

…and the MPs are not far behind.

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that journalists have been scoring a lot of own goals recently.

First there was the Carl Jefferies coverage, as textbook a case of contempt of court as ever flipped Leonard Cyril James McNae’s horsehair wig. The phone hacking “scandal” rumbles on. Little noticed but surely ominous was the rare instance of an appeal court judge, Lord Justice Sedley, successfully suing the Daily Telegraph for libel. A Daily Star journalist resigns in a very public huff, revealing in his wake that he made up stories about slebs (hardly news, I know, but the public fallout has yet to be felt).

Meanwhile the government’s draft libel law is published today. While on the face of it, the law is good for journalists and journalism – cracking down on the iniquitous trade in “libel tourism”, incorporating Reynolds Defence as part of a defence of “honest opinion” (replacing “fair comment”) and attempting to clear a path through the legalistic fug of internet libel.

But this is only a draft bill. What will happen when the MPs and the Lords come to debate it is another matter. It should surprise no-one if the above matters were not raised and some attempt is made to deal with some, if not all, of them.

For an interesting insight into what is going through lawyerly minds regarding the media at the moment, I recommend this podcast discussion from the Head of Legal blog. It’s rather lengthy, so you might want to leave aside half-an-hour to listen to it. The media stuff starts at about 24:20. (The “world’s worst tennis player” they mention is this bloke.)


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