Law, Justice and Journalism

Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

George Brock: The post-Leveson dog’s breakfast

In Comment, Journalism, Law on April 25, 2013 at 9:47 am

Professor George Brock

This post originally appeared on georgebrock.net.

I know that this week’s media debate is going to be all about the pros and cons of real-time news sharing in fast-moving crises like the Boston marathon bombings and subsequent shootouts, but my blog has a little catching up to do. While I have been writing a book, the government, Houses of Lord and Commons and the Hacked Off campaign have managed to make a gigantic dog’s breakfast of the follow-up to the Leveson Inquiry into phone-hacking.

This was pretty much the only subject on which I published during the long winter, so I’ll start by rounding up that stuff. It’s hardly surprising that inventive lawyers intent on intimidation are using Leveson’s recommendations to try to silence newspaper reporting or that the Metropolitan Police, who had a grimly embarrassing time in front of Leveson, are being cautious and unhelpful. What has surprised me is the depth of the legal and political doo-doo into which the government has stepped. In a hurry to get the Leveson Inquiry dealt with before the 2015 election season opens next year, the government tied itself in knots which may take years to unravel. The Royal Charter deal on a new press regulator was a rushed botch.

The largest single dilemma which Leveson plonked in the government’s lap is defining “the press”. Leveson was so heavily preoccupied by the issue of the misuse of power accumulated by the major newspaper groups, that he did not treat this as a central issue. He should have: defining who is to be covered by law or regulation dealing with news publishing is a basic issue in an era when “the press” doesn’t really exist any more. I argue in a TLS review (£) of Leveson and a report from the Columbia Journalism School on “post-industrial journalism” that the Leveson report’s worst flaw was that it was so backward-looking.

Thrashing round trying to define internet sites and blogs which are “news-related” and suchlike won’t work for anyone except lawyers who can spend happy years in court fighting over definitions. In this BBC explainer there is a nice little film by Newsnight’s David Grossman trying to explain the new law as it relates to online publishers. The Department of Culture Media and Sport have produced a colourful new diagram to help publishers work out if they’re covered by the new law. Here’s Patrick Smith of MediaBriefing picking holes.

The government seems frightened of open public debate about issues such as “public interest”. The reporting of the Leveson Report when it came out late last year was shoddy and partial. The negotiations leading up to the Royal Charter were opaque. The legislation is whistling through the Commons. Debate hasn’t happened. Opportunities to find better ways have been missed. And Leveson was a great chance to improve law and regulation of the news media, as I tried to explain in this lecture at Gresham College. Pity it was missed.

Conference, 3 May 2013: Obstacles to Free Speech and the Safety of Journalists

In Events, Journalism, Law on April 16, 2013 at 9:42 am

Date/time: Friday 3 May 2013, 11.00 – 16.30

Location: City University London, City Law School, Northampton Square campus, St John Street, EC1R 0JD, London, United Kingdom

Organisers: City Law School and the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism

The conference aims at celebrating the World Press Freedom Day by addressing some of the most topical issues affecting the protection of journalists through internationally established standards. The event stems from City’s commitment to the implementation of the UNESCO-steered UN Inter-Agency Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists 2013-2014. Issues considered will include the scope and effectiveness of extant international guarantees securing personal safety and freedom of expression for media workers in conflict and non-conflict zones, problems of compliance by States with duties arising under international human rights and humanitarian law, and potential strategies for further enforcement.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Geoffrey Robertson QC, Doughty Street Chambers
  • Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College, University of London; Field Court Chambers; European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights
  • Nathalie Losekoot, Senior Programme Officer (Europe), ARTICLE 19
  • Professor Jacqueline Harrison, University of Sheffield; Chair, Centre for Freedom of the Media
  • Dr. Damian Carney, Principal Lecturer, University of Portsmouth School of Law
  • Merris Amos, Senior Lecturer, Queen Mary University of London
  • Jim Boumelha, President, International Federation of Journalists
  • Dr. Carmen Draghici, Senior Lecturer, The City Law School, City University London

The conference will be of interest to academics, media NGO representatives and practitioners specialising in international law, civil liberties and human rights law, international humanitarian law, and media law.

The event is free of charge. A lunch buffet will be offered to all participants. To register please contact Dr. Carmen Draghici at Carmen.Draghici.1@city.ac.uk by 30 April 2013.

Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism Research Studentships [deadline 29 April 2013]

In Announcements, Journalism, Justice, Law on April 8, 2013 at 9:12 am

The Centre is offering three three-year, full-time doctoral Research Studentships, available to both home and overseas fee-paying students. Applications can be made to undertake doctoral studies in a topic relevant to one of the main themes of the Centre:

For entry in October 2013, the studentships will attract a bursary of £15,000 per annum in addition to payment of the tuition fees. Successful candidates will usually be expected to undertake some teaching support activity in their second and third years, by agreement with the School concerned.

Closing date for applications: 29 April 2013

For further information please contact the Centre Research Manager: Peter Aggar

Informal enquiries can be made to the Centre Directors: Professor Howard Tumber (Journalism), Professor Lorna Woods (Law) and Dr Chris Greer (Sociology).