Azerbaijan frees journalists amid calls for clearer laws on press freedoms

As previously reported on Mediabeak, the European Parliament has recently been petitioned over the issue of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. The Council of Europe has also urged the country to pass a defamation law to clarify and protect press freedom.

The country’s president has since pardoned over 100 political prisoners including five journalists. The journalists included the editor of opposition newspaper, Senet who had been imprisoned following convictions for incitement while another editor was released from his sentence for defamation. It is believed that a further three journalists remain in custody.


Bigmouth's revenge - will Morrissey succeed in court?

As Mediabeak reported in DecemberMorrissey is suing the NME and its editor for defamation claiming their cut and paste style interview with him had misrepresented him as out of touch and xenophobic. Writing in the Press Gazette, Caroline Kean questions whether he indeed has a case to support his defamation action. She highlights the defences of consent to publication and fair comment and asks if the NME might be able to make either defence stand up.

Mediabeak observes that this will be down to the context of the overall article and manner in which the comments that have been attributed to Morrissey were elicited and subsequently used. While he may have consented to do ‘an interview’ that does not automatically mean he waives his rights in relation to the publication. The consent has to be informed and fair in the overall context.

The recent case of Lowe v the Times where Southampton football boss Rupert Lowe won a staggering £250,000 damages over comments by a columnist that he had behaved 'shabbily' could provide guidance here. The judgment came as a shock to the media as its implications are wide reaching.

More from BBC


Anti-Defamation League welcomes clarification after Will Smith misquoted over Hitler

A race row was brewing in cyberspace after several websites misquoted and interpreted what actor Will Smith had said in an interview with Scottish tabloid the Daily Record. The Hollywood star’s comments that Hitler’s ‘twisted, backwards logic’ led him to the deluded belief that the atrocities he was carrying out were ‘good’ were misinterpreted as actually condoning Hitler as good. This caused widespread upset – not least to Smithwho issued a clarification on the matter.

The Anti-Defamation League has welcomed Smith’s clarification and pointed out that the “episode serves as a reminder of the power of words, and how words can be twisted by those with hate and bigotry in their hearts to suit their own worldview. This is why all celebrities bear a special responsibility to weigh their words carefully, and an obligation to speak out against racism and bigotry whenever even a whiff of it appears, as Will Smith has done in this instance.”


X Factor voting scandal could open can of worms

Following the mass of complaints over voting on the X Factor final, Ofcom has got out its regulatory big stick and is asking ITV to provide it with information on this latest series and has also asked to see the full findings of the report carried out by auditors Deloitte into the problems with viewer-participation programmes. ITV attracted criticism and suspicion for only releasing extracts from the Deloitte report but Ofcom has now demanded “explicit assurance” from ITV that they allowed Deloitte to undertake an “exhaustive review” of programmes. In a week that has seen record fines handed out over vote rigging, Ofcom’s showing its in no mood to be messed with and a desire to force broadcasters and production companies to sort out the recurrent compliance problems with such programmes.

More from MediaGuardian
Previous report on Mediabeak

UN Assembly lobbies for law on defamation of religion

The United Nations General Assembly has this week passed a resolution urging member states to secure “adequate protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and their value systems”.

The move follows calls (in the wake of the Danish cartoon row last year) by Islamic leaders, notably Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, to introduce legislative safeguards against the defamation of Islam.

The resolution was passed by a majority of 108 to 51 with many western nations opposing or abstaining the vote. While the resolution was couched in terms of defaming religion, the only one specified was Islam.

More from UN HERE


Tonga – Government sues paper for defamation

Tongan Newspaper Kele’a
Has seemingly done much to upset its kingdom’s Government and is being sued (for a second time) over a report it carried suggesting that the prime minister had privately employed a consultant. This might not seem like the highest order of libel but has caused plenty of upset in the Tongan cyberspace. The government published its stark criticism of the media back in March
This follows a raid on the paper by soldiers in February when they tried to shut it down.
The Tongan regime has been at loggerheads with the pro- democracy paper for years back in 2003 Reporters Without Borders issued an annual report on Tonga highlighting the royal family’s attempts to force ‘more respect’ out of the paper.

Abramovitch sues Sun

Roman Abramovich is suing the Sun for a reported £200,000 following its publication of a story mockingly suggesting he'd eaten Jose Mourinho and using a badly superimposed image of Mourinho's head on a plate in front of Abramovich who was brandishing a steak knife. The Chelsea boss has taken exception to the suggestion he undervalues Mourinho's contributuon to his club's success and claims the article has damaged his reputation and caused him distress.

His defamation action centres on two issues - first, defamation by innuendo - the picture and accompanying 'story' and second, the fact that Abramovich claims the Sun didn't afford him a right to reply or comment on the piece they published. Unless the Sun can come up with a good defence - and public interest isn't going to work here - it could be their head he has on a legal plate. If the Times can get hit with a £250,000 libel award - since reduced to £50,000 - over suggestions by a commentator that Southampton's boss had behaved 'shabbily' then Mediabeak does not much fancy the chances of the Sun in this action.


Complaints soar but Louis Walsh says X Factor result was fair

As reported on Mediabeak Ofcom has been flooded with complaints about the ability to vote on the hotly contested X-Factor final last weekend. In the space of 24 hours the number of complaints rose to over 1,000 viewers who claimed they were not able to get through to vote for their favourite.

Judge Louis Walsh has come out and said that it was not down to the best voice but the performance and 'X' factor and Leon's heartfelt appeal to the public ultimately won him a clear 10% lead in the votes. One might say 'who cares' but this goes deeper than the passions of Rhydian or Leon fans and brings us uncomfortably back to the arguments about vote rigging and the seeming inability of programme makers and the phone competiton third parties they engage to properly manage and secure compliance over facets of their programmes that engage the public and induce them to spend their money. So its time that broadcasters realised they need to invest as much resource in the compliance of product/programme add-ons as they throw at their promotion.

Latest HERE and HERE

BBC's u-turn on scumbags, maggots and faggots

As the old saying goes 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' or in this case try and seem politically correct by trying to fix the lyrics of a song that has long been established as a classic component of the yuletide repertoire. So it seemed odd that the BBC decided it needed to introduce an inelegant edit of the Pogues duet with Kirsty MacColl on the 'Fairytale of New York' track in case someone might take offence. Well offence was taken but it was fuelled by the decision to tamper with a song that the public has for years accepted as a classic. As the BBC saw complaints pour in over the course of the day they finally decided the whole thing was a bad idea and undid the edict and the edit to restore the song to its original form.

What this episode highlights is not that the lyrics penned and performed by the Pogues or Kirsty MacColl were unacceptable but it is the attempt at censorship of certain words that highlights the fact that those making the judgment about the censorship decision were influenced by conscious prejudices that did not transcend into the the literal and contextual form of the original recording (Mediabeak is aware that this sort of analysis belongs on Newsnight review accompanied by a tortured artistically troubled expression but is going to indulge it anyway!)

More on the story:
BBC's original decision HERE
The U-trun from Sky News HERE

Celebrity Scent Scandal - Kidman gets payout from Telegraph

Nicole Kidman has secured a 'substantial'payout from the Telegraph over allegations she favoured a scent other than the one she had a multimillion pound deal to promote. As previously reported on Mediabeak, Kidman unleashed her lawyers on the Telegraph after its 'Spy' gossip column suggested she was more partial to Jo Malone's White Jasmine and Mint scent than the Chanel No.5 she was under contract to promote.

There have been numerous cases involving celebrity endorsement in general and cosmetic and beauty products in particular in recent years. These did not always end up in court or cause the damage that might have been expected from the circumstances. Take for example Kate Moss, dropped by numerous brands including Chanel following allegations of drug taking, she recovered both physically and reputationally, even securing further lucrative cosmetic deals. Similarly David Beckham suffered no adverse effects following allegations about extra marital affairs around the time of his move to Spain.

The types of cases there have been can be broken down into three types: First, those where there has been an element of ‘passing off’ under trademark law. As in the case of former Formula One star Eddie Irvine and Talksport, you can’t use an image without consent or compensation. Singer Jennifer Lopez was threatened with legal action as her perfume ‘Glow by J-Low ‘ was seen to be too similar to another brand ‘Glow’. Even heavy metal band Metallica tried suing Guerlain when it issued a perfume under the Metallica name, even though confusion between the products could hardly be an issue.

Second, cases where the direct actions of an individual have undermined the brand. Kate Moss lost deals on the back of the ‘cocaine Kate’ allegations and following the racism row that erupted after her performance on Big Brother earlier this year, Jade Goody saw her perfume ‘Shh!’ withdrawn from sale in some outlets.

Third, cases such as this where companies can argue that the image they have bought in does not comply with the binding terms of the ‘buying in’ contract. Sainsbury’s suffered an embarrassing episode when Catherine Zeta Jones, who was promoting its recipes at the time, was spotted shopping in Tesco. More recently Teri Hatcher is locked in litigation with Hydroderma. The company is reportedly suing her for $2.8m for allegedly supporting other lip plumping products. This was on the basis that she was said to be ‘a fan’ of competitor City Lips.

Read more of this analysis from Mediabeak on Mediaguardian.co.uk: The Price of Speculation

Heather Mills McCartney hires M Law

The end of the year has not seen any closure on the acrimonious divorce battle between Heather Mills and Paul McCartney, nor has it seen much sympathy towards Mills from the press. It's fair to say that the 'Mucca' has had more than her fair share of media backlash but amid the positioning battle being played out in the 'Mucca' v 'Macca' media campaigns sight has been lost of the plight of their daughter who deserves that her parents suspend their egos and settle their differences in a more grown up manner than has hitherto prevailed.

Having 'parted company' with her lawyers Mischon de Reya and chosen to represent herself in her divorce case, Heather Mills has now, as The Lawyer reports, instructed M Law to take forward the three libel actions she has running against The Sun, The Mail and The Evening Standard.

More from Mediabeak on the Mucca v Macca legal and media battles:
'Mucca' and Macca: how much is too much?
Defamation by divorce proceedings?

London Underground censors bookies bingo ads

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has run into trouble with its latest ad campaign. Officials at London Underground have banned the ad – which shows a man posed as if breastfeeding a baby and accompanied by the strapline ‘where have all the women gone’ – saying it has ‘potential to offend public decency’.

The bookie is said to be surprised at the decision, seeing its ads as nothing more than a bit of fun. This isn’t the first time Paddy Power’s ads have run into trouble – back in January 2006 an ad called “The last supper” which depicted the biblical scene with ‘disciples’ seated round a casino table was banned by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) and in 2001 a scene showing betting odds over the heads of some old ladies trying to cross a road as cars approached them was also banned – the ASA had received over 50 complaints about the ad.

Other Paddy Power ads that have offended but were not censured included one showing two teenagers in school uniforms kissing on a park bench and betting odds were displayed on the girl’s chest as ‘Evens’ and on her thigh as “2/1” and one showing two babies in a bath along with a piece of faeces – again the odds were displayed. More HERE
Non-broadcast advertising rules are governed through the ASA by the CAP Code – this provides that marketing materials should not contain anything that is likely to cause offence – Section 5 provides:
5.1 Marketing communications should contain nothing that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability. Compliance with the Code will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards of decency.
5.2 Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily conflicting with 5.1 above. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
5.3 The fact that a particular product is offensive to some people is not sufficient grounds for objecting to a marketing communication for it.

CAP Code

European Parliament to hear concerns over press freedom and defamation in Azerbaijan

As previously reported on mediabeak, Azerbaijan has been urged to introduce a defamation law to clarify its boundaries of free speech and lessen human rights abuses caused by lack of clarity in the law. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Monitoring Committee is due to meet in Paris on Wednesday this week to hear information gathered on a recent fact finding mission to Baku and has expressed its concern over the imprisonment of journalists on defamation charges.


Sheridan charged with perjury in relation to News of World libel case

Tommy Sheridan, former Socialist MSP and now leader of the 'Solidarity' party, has been charged with perjury in relation to his libel win over the News of the World. Sheridan secured a £200,000 libel victory last year after the paper published allegations over his extra-marital affairs, swinging and consumption of intoxicating substances. None of this was, according to Sheridan and an emotive testimony by his wife, in any way true. However the paper and prosecutors had unfinished business following the trial and perceived inconsistencies in the evidence placed before it.

After the trial last August the News of the World described the jury's decision that it had libelled Sheridan as 'perverse' and while it launched an appeal, prosecutors launched an investigation into possible perjury.

Sheridan was outraged by what he described as the heavyhanded tactics of the police surrounding his arrest and charge and claims he is the victim of a witch hunt by the Murdoch empire (see Sky News). Whether he is as 'incandescent with rage' as he was during the libel trial last year when he ended up sacking his lawyers, remains to be seen.

If the prosecution can prove dirty tricks then the headlines he sought to sue over will seem insignificant and be sure to resurface. Proving perjury may not necessarily mean that what the News of the World published was true but if the evidence given in relation to Sheridan's character was embellished or distorted then the reputation he sought ot sue over may have not been such that what the paper printed could be reasonably be held to be responsible for its tarnishing. The courts have in the past (as in the judgment in Grobbelaar v News Group Newspapers) made clear that they are not there to protect the reputations of those who by their own actions are not dederving of such protection.

More: Guardian BBC

X Factor Final - Ofcom flooded with complaints after Rhydian fans find phone lines blocked

Ofcom has received over 80 complaints in relation to the voting for the X Factor final after fans of favourtie Rhydian Roberts were unable to get through to the show to register their votes. Fans of Rhydian reacted in similar disbelief to many others as outside favourite Leon Jackson won this year's competition and landed the lucrative recording deal. According to reports on mediaguardian Welsh fans are outraged and one local radio station is even going to boycott Leon's single by not playing it on air.
The programme makers have responded with the excuse that phone lines were very busy but did point out that with all calls being channelled through the same system there could be no voting bias unless more viewers in Wales subscribe to Virgin Media cable whose customers did experience problems due to the high call volumes.

Ofcom is looking into the matter but to avoid disappointment Mediabeak suggests its better to stick with the old seasonal favourites from Slade to Sinatra.

More from BBC and MediaGuardian

Ofcom broadcast bulletin - Casualty, Bravo and Galaxy 102 found in breach

Ofcom has today published its latest broadcast bulletin and upheld complaints against the BBC's hospital drama 'Casualty' - for being too graphic too close to the watershed; Bravo's 'Dangerous Sex Games' for broadcasting adult material without encrypting it and Manchester radio station Galaxy 102 for broadcasting an offensive 'off air' remark in error.

In relation to Casualty, the ruling highlights that it is as much the context of the overall programme as the specific time the content goes out that has to be considered. While mostly watched by adult viewers, the programme is broadcast at a time when younger viewers may still be watching and graphic images of intestinal injuries and an amputation were deemed to be excessive. Ofcom appreciated that illustrating the experience of junior doctors and what they have to face was integral to the storyline but did not consider adequate warning was given as to the graphic nature of the content. The regulator reminded broadcasters that the 9pm watershed was a guideline and did not mean that it was permissible to shift to very graphic content just because a programme goes out after that time. It concluded that "Broadcasters must comply with the requirements ofthe Code that material must be appropriately scheduled and that images of the effects of violence must be appropriately limited and justified by context." The programme was held to be in breach of clauses 1.3 and 1.11 of the CODE.

Dangerous Sex Games broadcast by Bravo was found to be in breach of 1.24 - adult material should be broadcast under encryption - and 2.1 and 2.3 of the code - that deal with harm and offence. The token bit of chat around what were basically sex scenes did little to convince Ofcom that the programme was anything other than porn. Ofcom stated that:
"Taking into account all the circumstances (including the style and
focus of the camerawork on the actors’ bodies, the considerable duration of the sex
scenes, and the clear predominance of sex scenes compared to narrative scenes),
the primary purpose of the film appeared to be the sexual arousal/stimulation of the
audience. The content overall amounted in Ofcom’s view to a series of strong and
prolonged sex scenes joined together by limited narrative."

Meanwhile Galaxy 102 came under fire for broadcasting offensive language and comments. A 'technical error' meant that the presenter's comments that were meant to be 'off air' were actually broadcast and contained the following: “…I reckon every spacker in Manchester could go to Toys'R'Us….meanwhile I am having to walk fucking miles with me kids in the rain…”. This was in breach of clause 1.4 of the code - material that is unsuitable for children. While the radio station did put out an apology this wasn't until the broadcast the following week. For Ofcom this was too distant from the actual offending broadcast and did not provide enough evidence of controls to prevent and respond to such incidents.

The broadcast bulletin also considered an admission of mistake by game show The Great Big Quiz on iPlay/Play to Win TV. Sky Sports coverage of the Ricky Hatton press conference and Goals on Sunday also came under scrutiny for offensive language - though Sky did its best to get round the colourful expletives of its colourful characters.

Read Full Broadcast Bulletin

Lancashire Evening Post pays out for identifying sex victims

The Evening Post has been landed with a £3000 fine and £4000 compensation order after it admitted identifying two women who had been victims of sexual assault. Under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, victims of sexual assault are granted anonymity for life. The paper had reported on a case involving a local brothel but in identifying the women had not realised they had been previously identified as victims of sex trafficing offences (from which they derived the automatic anonymity).



Home Secretary seeks to gag murder trial

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, has taken the unusual move of seeking a gagging - or 'Public Interest Immunity (PII)' order to allow for parts of a murder trial to be held in private. This is though to be the first time that such an order has been used in relation to a murder trial and it is normally something that is invoked where issues of national security or intelligence are at stake. This begs the question of what did the murdered author Allan Chappelow know or what was he writing about that was so secret or revealing that is needs gagging.

The 86 year old recluse had been found dead at his home in Hampstead last June and 45 year old financial trader Wang Yam is on trial for the murder. The trial is due to start on the 23rd January with a hearing on 14th January to consider the gagging order.

More from The TIMES


Ofcom issues new guidance on protecting Under 18s

Ofcom has issued new guidance on how under 18s should be treated when it comes to broadcast. The guidance follows research and consultation intitiated by the communications regulator earlier in the year looking into the measures taken by broadcasters to protect those under 18 who appear in programmes, especially where these are non-fiction broadcasts such as documentaries or reality tv shows.

The Ofcom Broadcast Code already provides specific protection for under 18s through section 1 of the code. In particular it states that:
1.26 - Due care must be taken over the physical and emotional welfare and the dignity of people under eighteen who take part or are otherwise involved in programmes. This is irrespective of any consent given by the participant or by a parent, guardian or other person over the age of eighteen in loco parentis.

1.27 - People under eighteen must not be caused unnecessary distress or anxiety by their involvement in programmes or by the broadcast of those programmes.

The new guidelines reinforce the regulator's belief that in relation to under 18s, "consideration of their welfare should be at the heart of editorial and production decisions".

The new guidelines aim to assist broadcasters in fully understanding the intent of and complying with the code.

View the guideline summaryHERE
The full guidelines HERE
The research into Children in Programmes HERE


Free to Speak: The boundaries of press freedom

Press and wider media freedoms may seem something that should be enshrined in constitutions and be taken for granted in the modern mobile age. While we have cause to malign the devious spin-led machinations of our own 'democratic' regime in the UK, its attempts at press interference pale into insignificance in comparison to the major violations and human rights abuses witnessed in other parts of the world.

Mediabeak has reported on some of these of late [1] [2] [3]

Today sees the first part of a new programme on the BBC World Service. Presented by Roy Greenslade, Press for Freedom (goes out at 9:05am 12/12/07) examines the struggle for media freedom that exists across the globe.

The BBC Free to Speak Season


From 'Golden Balls' to 'Swollen Balls' - Beckham's latest pose causes upset

With ball action on the pitch somewhat deflated of late it may seem logical for Beckham to turn to his material assets off the pitch as part of the brand Beckham promotion trail. While many ball lovers may delight at Beckham's soft porn pose for a new Giorgio Armani advert, the sight of him in his pants has caused upset among the more discerning. As Sky reports, children's charity Kidscape says the ad demeans Becks and demeans soccer. In other words the message is that its not good enough to be a talented ball player on the pitch, you also have to be one off the pitch to succeed in today's world. In reality its just a case of cashing in on another opportunity to pose for money - or to be fair to Beckham follow up the opportunity of working with a designer he likes after Armani designed some snappy suits for the English soccer squad.

The Beckhams have gone for a more racy approach to fashion since trying to conquer the US market. This latest ad pic might cause some people concern but if consumers didn't want to see it then its unlikely Armani would risk his global pant sales with a controversial ad. Complaints about adverts go to the Advertising Standards Authority - so one will have to wait and see if any complaints wing their way in that direction. Their latest adjudications can be viewed HERE

Jonathan Creek cracks

Alan Davies - it's Alan and don't dare call me Jonathan or I'll bite your ear off - has replaced the conventional journalistic soundbite with a more dramatic ear bite according to reports in the Mirror and other media.

After either too little to eat or too much to drink at the Groucho Club Davies took exception to a homeless person's banter and decided to sink his teeth into his ear. The pictures were captured on cctv and posted on the Mirror's website So far Davies has not been charged with assault.

Tapas Nine reunited - why now?

With the media frenzy surrounding the McCann's easing off - even the Sky News website has dropped its 'Madeleine' menu tag - the unsolved mystery surrounding Madeleine's disappearance and the investigation into it raises more questions than it has answered. The latest is why the Tapas Nine have decided to have a get together at a hotel in Rothley - now. As Clarence Mitchell pointed out they've had email, the internet and mobiles to communicate and be in touch so any conspiratorial suggestion that this summit had been an exercise in getting their stories straight ahead of yet another round of questioning that the Portuguese police are reported to be preparing seems unfounded.

As the Times reports, Mitchell said: "It is the first time the nine have sat down face to face. It was really just a get-together to discuss where they are at" - yes but as any inherently suspicious journalist (such as Clarence himself) should know, the question is always 'why' not necessarily 'what' and that appears to be the case with the Tapas Nine's get together in an Alan Partridge style hotel.

It could be that the only inconsistencies in their stories relates to their inactivity - in terms of the diligence and frequency of the checks they carried out on the sleeping children as opposed to any active role in Madeleine's disappearance. Hopefully detective agency Metodo 3 can live up to its bravado and get the focus back on finding Madeleine.

In the meantime The Express is keeping the McCann's on the front pages reporting on Portuguese police suspicions over Tapas reunited.

More from:
Sky News
Times - Madeleine McCann: the key questions

Latest PCC adjudications

The latest PCC adjudications have been published this week with four cases being resolved following corrections and apologies. The Editors'Committee is also convening for its regular review of the code and welcomes submissions.

Link to:
PCC Code


Defiant Conrad Black canned

Former media 'mogul' and Telegraph owner Conrad Black has been sent down for six and a half years. Protesting his innocence he's escaped the 20 years prosecutors were looking for, gets to keep his house and payout and managed to get himself on BBC's Newsnight programme to protest his innocence and plug his book on Nixon. Six plus years may seem long but one senses Black will be back.

More from Reuters

Don't mention the 'C' word it'll get your ad banned

'C' is for not what you may be thinking but in the seasonal context of this post it is for 'crib' yes, crib as in manger as in the makeshift bed the baby jesus may have been laid in. Luckily this site is relatively free from censorship (Mediabeak hopes) and the word 'crib' and 'jesus' can still be published without causing too much offence. However if you use the word 'crib' or can possibly be seen to be promoting it as something people may be influenced to buy then beware. Ireland is, it is fair to say, often associated with christianity in the form of catholicism but times are changing. While there is scope for the politically correct guide to teddy bear naming, there is also scope for a new guide to celebrating the end of the year - formerly known as Christmas - in a non-offensive manner.

This will provide little consolation for Veritas, the publishing division of the catholic church who are outraged after their Christmas card ad was pulled from Irish State TV, RTÉ for potentially promoting the sale of cribs and this could be seen as being a broadcast 'directed towards religious ends'.

More from mediaguardian HERE

The relevant code in England is Section 4 of the Ofcom Broadcast Code that covers Religion - and Section 10 of the BCAP broadcast advertising code

BBC World Service scores own goal with accuracy survey

The results of a recent survey commissioned by the BBC World Service may not have produced the feedback they were hoped to elicit. Of just over 1,000 people polled on the accuracy of the BBC's reporting, only 29% volunteered a positive reaction. This seems like bad news especially as it put the venerable organisation behind its counterparts in countries such as Venezuela, Russia, Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria.

The survey should be cause for concern but Mediabeak thinks we need more information on its context. Its angle was supposed to draw out views on press freedom and perceptions of the ability of publicly funded news organisations to deliver it. So to say only 29% think there is a free press at point of delivery in the UK is not the same as saying that which is delivered is inaccurate. Post the Hutton Enquiry and the BBC's subjection to political bullying and appointments its ability to stand up to incursions on press freedom in the UK has been compromised.

An organisation that prioritises paying Jonathan Ross a salary that could sustain 200 broadcast journalists has clearly got its priorities messed up so a public poll that thinks its accuracy is compromised is probably fair given that the corporations resources are being pumped into trying to upstage, fawn over or be buddies with people on a unimaginative chat-show format rather than frontline or investigative journalism that might actually tell stories that count and give a sense that we are willing to invest in a press that does its job and puts pressure on politicians rather than pimps celebrities.

See Mediabeak on Wossygate [1] [2] - his offending comment at the non-broadcast comedy awards.
The Independent offers an excellent comparison of what viewers' licence fee money can buy that exposes the shocking imbalance between show and substance - HERE

Defamation and press freedom: Azerbaijan urged to pass defamation law

The Council of Europe has urged Azerbaijan to introduce a workable defamation law to help clarify the legal boundaries of free speech and provide the media with a defensive framework against the incursions into free speech and human rights that have been witnessed of late.

With journalists regularly arrested or imprisoned for alleged acts of 'slander or insult' against the state and its officials the law used to prosecute (and persecute) them lacks the democratic checks and balances that provide for legitimate questioning while protecting against unwarranted attack on reputation.



Independent exposes the substance Jonathan Ross' overblown salary could buy

Thanks to Arifa Akbar, Arts Reporter at the Independent for doing some decent journalistic research to put Jonathan Ross' controversial salary into context.

It's a shocker. The analysis published in the Independent illustrates that:
"Jonathan Ross's salary is £18m over three years or £6m annually. Per annum, one Jonathan Ross equals:

* 200 broadcast journalists from London (at basic average salary £30,000).

* 400 regional broadcast journalists (at basic average salary £15,000).

* 315.8 library clerks/assistants (at grade three, basic salary £19,000).

* 227.7 producers and directors (at grade five, basic salary £26,353).

* 181.3 graphic designers (at grade nine, basic salary £33,094)."[SOURCE: Independent]

The point to make here is that its easy to take a pop at Ross over his salary but its not him one should be criticising - he, as any one else, will be getting his share of a market that creates the prices that are so disproportionate. Mediabeak stands by our previous analysis that the media sector is no different to sports where fees are set in relation to traded rights and what executives and media brokers think they can 'sell' on the back of performance. Such performance is media as medium to deliver entertainment as opposed to media that fulfils its part in a democracy as providing information and scrutiny. The political system has gots its overspun claws into the public sector so we could arrive at the situation whereby the public actually trust the private sector more to deliver unibiased and accurate news.

WHO DO YOU TRUST TO DELIVER THE NEWS? - mail Mediabeak a comment.

Mrs Tiger Woods gets damages for tasteless faked sex pics

The Dubliner has been put in its place over its pathetic attempts to spill its smutty editorial standards over the Ryder Cup. Its been hit with a £90,000 damages bill for deciding it was a good idea to place Ellin Nordgern Woods (Tiger Woods's wife) face on a partially clad porn shot.

More from Reuters


Sienna Miller wins privacy payout

Sienna Miller has settled her privacy action against the Sun and News of the World after securing a £37,500 payout from the papers' owners News Group Newspapers. She had sued them and the picture agency that supplied the intrusive photographs that were sneaked from a nude scene she had filmed for the movie 'Hippie Hippie Shake'. While she's settled with the tabs she's not finished with the photographer who took the actual snaps - a ruling is expected on this early next year.

The case is noteworthy as it is probably the largest settlement in relation to invasion of privacy based on purely the invasive element of the photograph itself as opposed to a photograph and its accompanying story (as in Campbell v Mirror).

More on Campbell v Mirror [1] [2]

It might help cover the cost of the necklace her boyfriend Rhys Ifans has supposedly bought her.


Strictly Come Pole Dancing upsets viewers

The BBC has been busy apologising for gaffes this week. The latest involves Arlene Phillips, one of the judges on Strictly Come Dancing. Over 32 viewers complained after she likened Ola Jordan and Kenny Logan's dance routine to a pole dance and for ignorant good measure added it "was like Poles from Poland".

While people could be proud of themselves if they are able to perform such an energetic routine, the fact it may be like pole dancing has nothing to do with the ethnic origins of its dances. Arlene seemingly forgot the subtle distinction between the capital and small letter 'P' or maybe thinks that its called pole dancing because it originates from Poland - just as line dancing comes from Lineland!

The BBC attributed it to the pressure of live television performance.


NUJ takes itself too seriously over Jonathan Ross's comedy awards quip

We know he sometimes thinks he's funnier than he is and that he gets paid an abscene amount of money by the BBC (footballers also get paid obsecene amounts of money by clubs and end up delivering comedy performances in return) but the NUJ is taking him and itself too seriously over his comments at this week's comedy awards.

For reasons best known to ITV, it decided not to screen the awards - for fear of another phone-vote scandal (that's compliance gone mad!)- and pay a massive fee to stop anyone else broadcasting the event. Ross who was presenting the awards, the audience, nominees and recipients were naturally not as moved by the decision to have an 'off screen' celebration of tv comedy as they were by the talent they had come to honour. So Ross had pointed out how ridiculous (or in his word wwwudiculous) the situation was as it deprived comedians of one of the key awards - the public one (as the public would normally phone in their vote).

Having pointed this out amid heckles over his huge BBC salary he quipped that he was worth 1,000 journalists - giving him the benefit of the doubt, the impact of him deriding ITV over the awards may have has the same coverage as numerous journalist by-lines but that's where it ends. No self-respecting journalist would take his comment seriously - especially within the context of a comedy awards ceremony where Ross may have been short on written script and improvised a joke or two. Yes, if the BBC paid him less they might have more to devote to serious journalism but unfortunately the administrative dictatorship running it would be unlikely to use any cut in pay to the likes of Ross for such sensible purposes when there are plenty of administrative, hr and consultancy projects they could waste it on.

More on the issue HERE

Save CBeebies - Ofcom quizzes Beeb on commitment to kids programmes

Ofcom is reported to be talking to the BBC about its commitment to kids programming. The regulator is keen to get assurances that cut-backs will not mean less commitment to quality programmes for kids as current regulations leave a loophole that could allow the corporation to cut back its output without falling foul of the rules.
Having seen the recent spate of phone-in scandals reach as far as kids tv in the form of Blue Peter its as important as ever to safeguard both the quality and quantity of programming available for children.

More from mediaguardian.co.uk


Robbie Williams says sorry for 'unintentional' mocking (and potentially libellous lyrics)

Robbie Williams has ducked out of a high court libel action after offering to pay undisclosed damages and offering an unreserved apology to his former Take That manager Nigel Martin Smith over a 'misunderstanding' over the meaning of the lyrics in the original version of his song The 90's.

The misunderstood suggestion was that management had ripped off the unsuspecting Take That boys in the 90's - perish the thought. Having been hit with a writ Williams decided to pay off Martin Smith with enough to make him go away. Martin Smith's lawyer issued a statement saying that his client did not want the case to get this far and if only Robbie had said sorry sooner it would not have come to this - well a substantial payout will probably help him get over it.

Williams has reissued the track with amended lyrics on his recent Rudebox album.

Mediabeak observes that when it comes to libel it reaches beyond the obvious headlines and transcends into lyrics and innuendo that if 'misunderstood' could well give cause for a trip to the High Court.

Ireland leads way with new libel laws

The Irish Parliament (Seanad) has been debating the 2006 Libel Bill which is likely to be broadly welcomed by the media and serves as a pragmatic pointer for a necessary update to the ailing 1996 Act in England.

Good news for the media comes in the form of a defence where there has been a "fair and reasonable publication on a matter of public interest", less so is the proposal to give apologies the same prominence as the originating offending piece - so if a tabloid plasters X shagged Y on its front page it will also have to print that it 'says sorry' for getting it wrong on its front page - an unusual sight that would be.


BBC apologises for tactless Muhammad jibe

As if the political and religious sensitivity of a teddy bear had not provided enough headlines a BBC radio presenter has demonstrated they, for one, gleaned nothing from the Gillian Gibbons saga. Presenting a show on BBC Radio Nottingham, Frances Finn decided to throw in a 'funny' aside saying that along with her family, Gillian Gibbons "dog, Muhammad is very pleased to see her as well". Stupidity of this magnitude undermines wider free speech debates and highlights the prejudices that arguably give those who expressed outrage at Gibbons innocent, yet badly informed, teddy naming exercise legitimacy for the argument that was overcooked by their reaction.

More from MediaGuardian

Jerry Springer the Opera not blasphemous

Its not what many militant Christians may want to hear and on the other hand there are probably plenty of people (notably within the BBC) with or without religious convictions who would be pleased to see Director General Mark Thompson prosecuted for something but the High Court has ruled that in respect of the blasphemy case before it there were not grounds for a blasphemy prosecution.

There was uproar when the BBC decided to screen Jerry Springer - The Opera in 1995 which was branded by many and lobby group Christina Voice in particular as "an offensive, spiteful, systematic mockery and wilful denigration of Christian belief".

Following an ealier hearing at which the magistrates court declined to issue a summons against Thompson for blasphemy, the High Court has this week ruled that within the context of the opera and programme it could not be seen as blasphemous and no prosecution was warranted.

More legal analysis from Timesonline - Free Speech v. Religion


Bigmouth strikes back

With writs flying and incensed by the NME's interpetation of his comments, former Smiths frontman Morrissey has lashed back at the NME's seemingly substandard attempts at music journalism. Writing on MediaGuardian's music blog, Morrissey has wielded his lyrical talents to much effect. While the question of how his comments were interpreted and published may be one for the high court, Morrissey has repositioned the debate into something wider and closer to home for the music press - the credibility and relevancy of the NME. A clever coup for if the NME and its journalist are deemed irrelevant then their view of his comments have little credibility. As things stand the quality of his argument seems to outweigh that of the journalism that lies behind the current dispute.

BBC - the price of trust

According to reports on MediaGuardian the BBC is to spend up to £500,000 in training its staff to produce more trustworthy programming. This follows recent scandals that have questioned the integrity of Blue Peter phone ins and misrepresenting our monarch. Surely the BBC should be 'trusted' to be trustworthy in the first place and where gross misjudgement and editorial error has occured on seemingly uncontroversial output such as Blue Peter or a programme about the Queen, surely it can sort itself out.

The scale and price tag of this training 'initiative'smacks of an overblown administrative reaction akin to civil service administrative gestures seen in other sectors such as the health service. If it sorted out its priorities and programme compliance and funding at the frontline then it wouldn't need to make political gestures of this magnitude that may seem like a confidence building PR exercise but are ultimately a waste of licence payers money. Its those who preside over the budgets and procedures who need training ahead of those who have to implement and deal with the shortcomings of the decision making above.

Heat mag follows Mediabeak's advice - issues apology and donates to charity

Atoning for its stupidity Heat magazine has resolved its dispute with Katie Price and Peter Andre over its imbecilic sticker of Harvey. As reported on Mediabeak Heat printed a tasteless sticker playing fun at Katie Price or Jordan's disabled son Harvey. Following complaint by Jordan to the magazine and the PCC, over 100 further complaints to the PCC as well as condemnation on its chat pages from its own 'readers'the magazine has come to its senses and printed an apology as well as making a donation to a charity Katie and Peter have backed in relation to Harvey's condition.


Kidman sets lawyers on the Telegraph for commenting on her choice of perfume

Nicole Kidman has unleashed Schillings on the Daily Telegraph after its Spy column suggested her favourite perfume was not the Chanel No 5 she advertises and is paid to publicise but Jo Malone's White Jasmine and Mint. What great pre-Christmas publicity for Jo Malone but not so good for Chanel who are reported to be "unhappy" that Kidman was favouring the English city-chique scent over their classic perfume. Kidman may be in breach of contract for dousing herself in Jasmine and Mint but in the meantime is suing the Telegraph for the grossly defamatory claim. This is unlikely to get near court but if it did it would be great to have sniff test evidence admitted to ascertain whether the claim that she did indeed have an air of Jasmine and Mint rather than No 5 about her could be stood up to be true and rebut the defamatory slur on her character.

Libel - Beesley makes beeline for Popbitch

Its been a busy week for Schillings - not only have they been brandishing writs for Nicole Kidman's claim against the Telegraph (for suggesting she favoured one of Jo Malone's scents over the Chanel No 5 she's contracted to promote)but they are defending Max Beesley's honour against a Popbitch story that claimed "Maxed out Beesley makes beeline for beauties".

Babeworld TV busted by Ofcom

Ofcom has, according to reports on mediaguardian, hit Babeworld TV with a £25,000 fine for beaming out smut shortly after the watershed.

An outraged mother had complained after she found her young son and his friends being told by scantily clad ‘presenters’ thrusting their wares into the camera lens that "you are going to be spunking your load" – they went on to say that "Mimi's pussy needs some attention", and invited viewers to contemplate that their "cock could virtually be straight in between my tits right now".

Fined for being flagrantly in breach of Ofcom’s Broadcast Code rules on protecting uner 18s from offensive material, Ofcom ruled that the channel was broadcasting what was blatantly ‘adult material’ that should have been broadcast under encryption. The fact that the programme makers had said that the producer had been ‘retrained’ did little to offset the fact that viewers were also invited to phone in for more off-screen offerings and, still before 10pm, were invited to to "send in your pictures, show us your nice hard cock".

In issuing its fine Ofcom took into account that Babeworld was no stranger to complaints and had done little to address past issues relating to its output.

Ofcom Broadcast bulletins

Press Freedom prevails as German reporter wins damages for wrongful raid on his software and sources

Stern Magazin reporter Hans Martin Tillack has secured a significant ruling from the European Court that upholds the right of a free press to protect its sources. Following his report on alleged fraud within the European Union, Tillack was detained for several hours and had his office and equipment ransacked and confiscated in a bid to find out who his sources were. The pretext for the action against him was that he had violated Belgian law by offering an official money for confidential information and documents - no such offence was substantiated.

In its ruling the European Court confirmed that the protection of sources was a right not a privilege that could be taken away and the action against Tillack had violated his rights.


Celebs put paparazzi in their place

The hunter becomes the hunted as more celebs decide to see of the paps. Julia Roberts is the latest in a growing list of celebrities who rather than run or attempt to hide from the press (as Naomi Campbell and Lewis Hamilton so inelegantly tried to do in London this week) are seeing them off or, in Roberts case, chasing after them.

Roberts was so incensed that paparazzi were trying to sneak pictures of her near a school where unconnected kids could be in the shot or put at risk that she jumped in her car and chased after them.

Meanwhile George Clooney also got heavy earlier in the month in a well publicised 'altercation' with what he called the "bounty hunters" who were putting innocent bystanders at risk by their reckless attempts to get a picture of their prey.

Clooney defended troubled Britney
Clooney falls out with Fabio over snappers

Heat should get slammed for disgraceful sticker

The PCC has received a complaint from Katie Price and Peter Andre over a sticker it gave away with this week’s magazine. Even by Heat’s editorial standards the sticker was a disgrace and featured her son Harvey’s face with the caption “Harvey wants to eat me!” (Harvey is her son from a relationship with footballer Dwight Yorke and suffers from a rare medical condition which includes growth hormone deficiency).

Quite what possessed Heat editor Mark Frith to print and issue the sticker - one of 50 given away with the magazine - remains unknown but to the extent its tasteless it also falls foul of clauses 6 and 12 of the PCC Code of Practice which provide that children of celebrities shouldn’t be photographed or featured just because of who they are and also that the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to – among other things – any physical or mental illness or disability.

The PCC confirmed that they had received several complaints from the public as well as representatives of Katie Price. It is likely and to be hoped that the PCC will uphold the complaint and get Heat to donate some money to a charity that helps children with disabilities to compensate for their tasteless attempt at humour.

Heat have now published an apology on their website:
Harvey – Sorry
but that doesn't explain or compensate their stupidity for publishing it in the first place.

Egypt: bloggers and journalists accounts cut in blatant censorship attempt

Egypt, which appears on the Reporters Without Frontiers watchlist as one of the “enemies of Internet Freedom” seems intent on intimidating and imprisoning bloggers and journalists who may report too closely what is actually going on.

A journalist has been investigated for taking pictures and covering the story of a demonstration at a university which was – ironically – hosting a conference on information technology and regulation of the internet.

Another journalist had his YouTube account suspended after posting scenes of police brutality on his blog.

The whole point of blogging is that it empowers and provides publishing for the people. Those in power may in the past have been able to influence news agendas and even news websites but they have no control over blogs – other than the blatant censorship being seen in countries such as Egypt and others highlighted by organisations like Reporters Without Frontiers. The spectre of citizen journalism and ability of the public to report on what they see – tell it as it is – without editorial agendas or interference is a threat to those who like to distort the news, censor what we see and hear and infringe free expression. That is why they seek to suppress, intimidate and cut it off. The power of blogging and the internet is that news of such practices will spread beyond the servers, networks and borders they control.


Russia: Novy Peterburg editor imprisoned on defamation charges

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has issued a notice this week expressing its alarm at the imprisonment of the editor of the St Petersburg newspaper Novy Peterburg. Nikolai Andrushchenko was sentenced last weekend to a two month period of pre-trial detention on charges of defamation. If he’s convicted he could face up to six years in jail.

The charges seem to be politically motivated and relate to his papers coverage of a murder trial back in 2006. The coverage had been critical of local authorities and that, coupled with the paper’s pro-opposition stance in the wake of parliamentary elections last December probably upset the ruling politicians who are using Russia’s more draconian defamation laws to punish Andrushchenko.
Joel Simon from CPJ said: "We are disturbed by the imprisonment of Nikolai Andrushchenko on more than one-year-old charges just days before an election… With a pattern of harassment of the journalist and his paper, it is apparent that the authorities' actions are aimed at stifling an opposition voice before the parliamentary vote. We call on Russian authorities to release Andrushchenko without delay."

CPJ Press Release

This is not the only case of journalists from the paper being targeted – see recent release from the Bulletin of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations HERE


Morrisey threatens NME with libel action

Bigmouth will strike again - unless he gets an apology from the NME over an article that sets him up as being someone who should have been part of the guest list at the Oxford Union earlier in the week. The interview behind the write-up that finally appeared seems to be a patchwork of questions and answers leaving plenty room for ambiguity. The essence of the story is that Morrisey was presented by an NME interview as complaining about the level of immigration and different races in England. Under the headline 'Bigmouth Strikes Again' (the title of one of The Smiths top hits) the NME suggested that the former Smiths frontman had used his big mouth to bad mouth the fact that England was not as english as he might like - the suggestion being he was displaying potentially nationalistic tendencies. The outraged Morrisey - through his representatives and legal team - is having none of it. Aside from the fact that he now lives in Rome and previously lived in the US he claims he has been grossly misrepresented and defamed. The suggestion that he has nationalistic views might seem at odds with the peace loving, vegetarian lyrics his previous songwriting (such as 'Meat is Murder') would seem to embrace. What is clear is that what appeared in the NME was an inelegantly compiled write-up of a pieced together interview. Unless the NME can prove there is more behind their story than sloppy journalism big mouth will strike home with a libel action.

More from GuardianUnlimited


McCann Watch – who is briefing who? As media coverage hits new lows Mediabeak asks who is behind the stories and will we ever know the truth?

The interaction between the media and the McCann’s in the tragic tale of Madeleine’s disappearance continues to trawl the depths of desperate reporting. As the stories stretch ever further from substantiated fact or corroborated evidence we are as far away from the truth as we were in those desperate days that followed her disappearance. Mediabeak uses the term ‘disappearance’ advisedly as we do not know if she was abducted, wandered off, died in a tragic accident, was sold or even murdered. All we do know is that she disappeared, seemingly without trace, leaving cuddle cat behind. The rest is speculation.

With so much coverage but so little to go on we have to ask who is behind all these stories and more importantly, why. Is it the Portuguese police who are still briefing ‘off record’ or is there, as some seem to suggest, more to the McCann’s campaign strategy than we or perhaps even they know? It certainly seems that the stream of smear and counter-smear seems to show little sign of drying up.

After being out of the frame for several months, initial suspect, Robert Murat came back into play via his girlfriend Michaela Walczuch. While friends say she was at a Jehova’s Witness prayer meeting on the night Madeleine disappeared, witnesses claim to have seen her with Madeleine on two separate occasions – one in Morocco. Her alibi has also been rubbished amid claims she was expelled from the church for allegedly ‘breaking the laws of the bible’ – see report from the Sun. While these claims are being rubbished by Walczuh and Murat, the McCann’s are getting hit with a fresh wave of speculation about DNA evidence locked in a lab in Birmingham – why is it there and what’s happening with it? We also saw front pages, proclaim that Kate McCann had ‘sold’ Madeleine see the Daily Star’s coverage. This turned out to be a grossly misleading headline that drew on an early line of investigation the police had looked into but dismissed. Meanwhile the Express continues with its McCann coverage crusade and is touting extracts from a new book (one of the many likely to be produced) - Madeleine: A Most Heartbreaking And Extraordinary Disappearance, by Robert Downing -under the headline ‘Maddy: what really happened’

The Mirror and Sun are offering a new twist to the tangled tale with a new line of investigation that suggests a paedophile may have suffocated Madeleine with a pillow to stifle her screams when she awoke to find them in her room. Meanwhile there is little love lost between the new police team heading – though recent reports suggest they may be winding down – the investigation and the Spanish firm of investigators, Metodo 3 who the McCann’s have hired to find Madeleine. A bullish Metodo 3 claim they are ‘very close’ to solving the case and in any event were confident they would have it wrapped up within six months, while the Portuguese police have dismissed them as ‘irrelevant’ and threatened that they could be arrested if they interfered with the investigation. If they do manage to solve the case would that be seen as ‘interfering’?

So back to assessing who’s briefing the media and why.

McCanns – want the focus to remain on finding Madeleine and keep the campaign in the public eye. They also want to deflect negative stories and criticism of their reactions and emotions. They also seem be keen to downplay inconsistencies in their recollection or version of events and their interaction with the ‘Tapas 9’.

The Tapas 9 – what could be the title to a Tarantino film does of course refer to the assembled friends who shared dinner at the tapas bar on the night of Madeleine’s disappearance. What do they know. Why are there seeming inconsistencies in versions of events attributed to them. Having remained largely silent, some of them have come forward and engaged with the media, notably Jane Tanner who gave an interview to the BBC amid press coverage of the e-fit of a man she says she saw carrying a little girl on the night Madeleine disappeared.

Mr Murat and friends – initially in the frame as the main ‘arguido’ what really is his story. We are told he was seen hanging around the apartment complex and know he was hanging around the press but beyond wanting to be Mr Helpful who is he, what is he about. His bizarre relationship with Walczuch – who still lives with her estranged, pool cleaning husband. His former wife and daughter in the UK. His contact with his IT consultant. His alleged trip to Exeter in the weeks prior to Madeleine’s disappearance. The complete lack of evidence police appear to have found at his mother’s home.

The PJ – the much maligned judicial police. They have received a battering from day one over their handling of the investigation (continued in today’s Express) – partly due to frustration at there being no results but largely due to the fact no one appreciated the restrictive machinations of the judicial secrecy laws that protect the investigation from being exposed to the outside world. The track record of some of the officers responsible for the initial investigation, especially in relation to a previous missing child case. For an organisation protected by secrecy laws they – or certain numbers among them and their colleagues seem to have done a very good job of making ‘leaks’ or ‘confirmation from official sources close to the investigation’ available – in other words, ‘we’re happy to brief our local press but the rest of you can get lost and stop smearing us and upsetting the status quo of what was a perfectly pleasant tourist spot until now’.

Metodo 3 – will they actually find Madeleine and/or solve the case? – certainly their web profile makes them seem more like fraud and financial crime investigators rather than the James Bond of the investigative world. They’ve staked their reputation on it so are either supremely confident or optimistic. They claim the net is closing in and believe that she may have been snatched to order by a paedophile ring and is being kept in Morocco. This follows claims another girl who had also disappeared had been successfully found there.

Many are asking on how long the McCann's can go on - a report on Sky News today suggests that the campaign money may run out before they tire out. Kate Miller, writing in today's Scotsman asks how much vilification the McCanns still have to suffer at the hands of these runaway headlines. Greenslade writing on his MediaGuardian blog writes that the "McCanns misery on amid newspaper coverage exhibiting a casual cruelty"
He concludes that the low levels the unattributed headlines are plunging to are "nothing more than sales gimmicks aimed at pandering to the basest of human characteristics, a gloating, ghoulish, gossiping vulgarity devoid of basic human pity". While the media are getting their money's worth out of the enduring headline bait offered by this tragic story that bait and the enduring public interest in the 'gossiping vulgarity' are being fed by those who for whatever reason have not yet finished telling their story or are satisfied that we've been told all we need to know or uncovered all there is - or actually reached the conclusion everyone has been hanging on for - that Madeleine will be found.


Death by reality TV - should broadcasters bear more responsibility for the scenarios they unleash?

Victim Svetlana Orlova - pic: Antenna 3/YouTube
A Spanish broadcaster has become embroiled in a row after a guest on one of its chat shows was found murdered five days after her appearance. It wasn't the show that killed her but seemingly her former boyfriend who the show's host had thought it would make good tv to wheel out live on air to propose to the woman who - it turns out - ditched him for his abusive behaviour.

Researchers putting together the Diario de Patricia programme for channel Antena 3 had overlooked the fact that there was a court order preventing their 'surprise guest' from being within 500 metres of Svetlana Orlova. The tragic case has highlighted the need for broadcasters to be more careful when setting up situations that play on people's psyche's and may lead to outcomes the broadcasters can't control (and probabably won't be interested in) after the programme's gone out on air.

This echoes similar debate in the UK over the acceptable boundaries of reality tv and playing with people's vulnerable psychologies.

More from Sky News

Diana inquest - coroner in court battle to get paparazzi evidence admitted

Lord Justice Scott Baker is not being fobbed off by attempts to prevent evidence given by photographers who were at the tragic crash scene in Pont de l'Alma on August 31st 1997 from being made available to the onging inquest into her death.
The row is over whether the evidence should be allowed to be read out or played via video in court given that the photographers themselves (all but one of whom have refused to attend and can't be compelled to do so by the English coroner's court)will not be in court and cannot therefore be cross-examined.

Given that their evidence is likely to be contested by 'interested parties'rule 37 of the 1984 Coroners’ Rules comes into play as it provides that such evidence can only be admitted where there is not likely to be a contest to the evidence.

Given that what the photographers saw - or may have seen - is so fundamental to getting the full picture of what happend in the immediate aftermath of the crash it seems ludicrous for rule 37 to be applied so as to lock out the evidence.

The High Court upheld the rule and blocked the evidence but their Lordships did concede that the system was far from satisfactory. Having been given leave to bring this appeal to the Court of Appeal one hopes Lord Justice Baker will secure a breakthrough and get the evidence admitted.

More from Timesonline

Top cops clash in libel case

Its not always the media who get sued. Two former Metropolitan Police officers have been in court over ‘libellous allegations’ contained in a book. Having been cleared of charges back in 2003 for perverting the course of justice, Chief Superintendent Ali Dizaei co-authored a book entitled ‘Not one of us’ about his experience and the police force. There was public outrage at the time with estimates that between £4-7 million pounds of taxpayers money had been wasted on what turned out to be a 'witch hunt' - background on Newsnight and more Newsnight

The book contained the suggestion that former colleague and now Devon and Cornwall Chief Constable, Stephen Otter had given ‘false evidence’ at Mr Dizaei’s trial – so the suggestion was that Otter had in effect also perverted the course of justice by giving false evidence at Dizaei’s trial.

In the circumstances neither could be shown to have perverted the course of justice and Dizaei was cleared of criminal charges and Otter has now won libel damages from Dizaei in respect of the same.

More from the BBC


Defamation charge for 3 reporters in Mauritius

In the first such action in over 13 years, 3 reporters have been charged with defamation in Mauritius. The trio have been busted for alleging that a large cash stash had been found in a poliecman's locker. The move is seen as part of a clampdown on the media by Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam who had told his parliament he was going to take on the media's excesses. Quite how the press are meant to have been excessive in their coverage is at odds with the lack of legal action for over a decade but Ramgoolam seems intent on curbing the media's "abuse of freedom" - it remains to be seen quite whose freedom is being abused.

More from Reuters

Sex, drugs and lack of goals

The News of the World reports on the pathetic behaviour of the overpaid pissheads who were meant to represent the country at football.

If they disgrace themselves on the football pitch they can hardly complain when the media uncover their behaviour off-pitch.

Read more HERE

Free Speech - freesheets to overtake papers as media of the future

Who said newspapers are on the decline?

Board any train, underground or bus and you're likely to see copies of any of an increasing stream of free titles. Do they make money and are they here to stay?

According to recent reports, leading freesheet title Metro is surging up the circulation ladder and with over 1,358,000 copies distributed in October is nearing circulation of the Mirror with its average circulation of 1,525,477 copies.

Do the mounting circulation figures translate into money? According to Greenslade's Guradian blog last month, it would seem not. He reported Metro was looking at trading losses of £9m.



Latest Ofcom bulletin - Undercover Mosque cleared

Ofcom's latest broadcast bulletin has backed Channel 4's controversial programme 'Undercover Mosque' but ruled Talk Sport was out of line for allowing George Galloway to set out his political stall on air.

Full report coming soon

You can read Ofcom's Broadcast Bulletin HERE

Deadly hoax - how should we patrol and police MySpace and similar sites?

MSNBC's Today Show is reporting on a tragic story of a 13 year old girl who committed suicide following a hoax romance on MySpace.

After falling out with her friend, 13 year old Megan Meier was lured by a hoax MySpace posting pretending to be from a young boy who had recently moved to her neighbourhood in Missouri. Little did she know that the real person behind the MySpace postings was the mother of the friend she had fallen out with. This warped use of one of the internet's leading social spaces ultimately led to a virtual relationship that broke down and the false online identity was used to shower the victim with abuse, abuse that resulted in a vulnerable teenager taking her own life.

We are all too aware of the dangers posed by those misusing the freedom to exchange views, contact others and interact in the onlne environment but what can be done about them? There are various boxes to click on sites that ask users to consent to 'terms of use' and to basically behave themselves but such rules don't envisage or extend to the harm that can be done. While regulations allow an internet provider or website to take down a posting or ban a user they don't extend to analysing, predicting or being able to do anything about the potential psychological damage that can be done by those with sick minds who prey on vulnerable online users.

This case is particularly disturbing because of the warped way in which an adult decided to play this emotional mind game on the friend, or former friend of her daughter. The parents of Megan Meier want justice but the legal process is not rushing to offer them a solution. The online hoax was not of itself criminal - yet the result was deadly.

Read more HERE

What do you think? should there be more laws to police what gets posted online? Should there be tougher penalties for those who use online sites to bully, harass and ultimately, as in this case, drive people to suicide?
Post your comments below or mail mediabeak your views: mediabeak@gmail.com

Defamation covered by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights

There has been ongoing debate in the UK and across Europe over the past years whether Article 8 of the European Convention - that has been applied regularly in respect of Privacy actions - also covers reputation and defamation actions. As it protects the 'right to respect' over a family and private right it has been argued in the English courts that Article 8 should become engaged where such respect has been violated and such violation does not also have to be a violation of privacy.

This view has been confirmed by the case of Pfeifer v Austria - judgment issued 15/11/07

Details below:

Press release issued by the Registrar


The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing its Chamber judgment1 in the case of Pfeifer v. Austria (application no. 12556/03).

The Court held, by five votes to two, that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the Austrian courts’ failure to strike a fair balance between the protection of freedom of expression and the right of the applicant to have his reputation safeguarded.

Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court awarded Mr Pfeifer 5,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 10,000 for costs and expenses. (The judgment is available only in English.)

1. Principal facts

The applicant, Karl Pfeifer, is an Austrian national who lives in Vienna. He is a freelance journalist. From 1992 to 1995 he was the editor of the official magazine of the Vienna Jewish community.

In February 1995 Mr Pfeifer published a commentary criticising in harsh terms a professor who had written an article alleging that the Jews had declared war on Germany in 1933, and which trivialised the crimes of the Nazi regime. The professor brought defamation proceedings against the applicant, who was ultimately acquitted in May 1998 when the courts found that his criticism constituted a value judgment which had a sufficient factual basis.

In April 2000, criminal proceedings under the National Socialism Prohibition Act were brought against the professor by the Public Prosecutor on account of his article. He committed suicide shortly before his trial.

In an article from June 2000, the weekly Zur Zeit referred to the Mr Pfeifer’s commentary, alleging that it had unleashed a manhunt which had eventually resulted in the death of the victim. The applicant brought unsuccessful defamation proceedings against the publishing company owning Zur Zeit. While the first-instance court had found that the statement was defamatory, in October 2001 the appellate court found that it was a value judgment which was not excessive.

Meanwhile, in February 2001 the chief editor of Zur Zeit had addressed a letter to the subscribers asking them for financial support and claiming that a group of anti-fascists was trying to damage the weekly by means of disinformation in the media and by instituting criminal proceedings and civil actions. The letter stated again that Karl Pfeifer and a number of other people were members of a “hunting” association which had chased the professor to his death. The applicant brought a second set of defamation proceedings. His action was dismissed in August 2002, as the appellate court held that the principles and considerations set out in its previous judgment of October 2001 applied.

2. Procedure and composition of the Court

The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 7 April 2003.

Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:

Loukis Loucaides (Cypriot), President,
Nina Vaji (Croatian),
Anatoli Kovler (Russian),
Khanlar Hajiyev (Azerbaijani),
Dean Spielmann (Luxemburger),
Sverre Erik Jebens (Norwegian), judges,
Heinz Schäffer (Austrian), ad hoc judge,

and also Søren Nielsen, Section Registrar.

3. Summary of the judgment2


Relying on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), Mr Pfeifer complained that the Austrian courts failed to protect his reputation against defamatory statements made by the chief editor of Zur Zeit.

Decision of the Court

Article 8

The Court held that a person’s right to protection of his or her reputation was encompassed in Article 8 as being part of the right to respect for private life.

The Court reiterated that statements that shock or offend the public or a particular person were indeed protected by the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 (freedom of expression). However, the statement here at issue went beyond that, claiming that the applicant had caused the professor’s death by ultimately driving him to commit suicide. Although it was undisputed that the applicant had written a critical commentary on the professor’s article in 1995 and that, years later, in 2000, the professor had been charged under the National Socialism Prohibition Act in relation to this article and had committed suicide, no proof had been offered for the alleged causal link between the applicant’s article and the professor’s death. By writing that, the chief editor’s letter overstepped acceptable limits, because it in fact accused Mr Pfeifer of acts tantamount to criminal behaviour.

Even if the statement were to be understood as a value judgment, it lacked a sufficient factual basis. The use of the term member of a “hunting” association implied that the applicant was acting in cooperation with others with the aim of persecuting and attacking the professor. There was no indication, however, that Mr Pfeifer, who had merely written one article at the very beginning of a series of events and had not taken any further action thereafter, acted in such a manner or with such an intention. Moreover, it had to be noted that the commentary written by the applicant, for its part, had not transgressed the limits of acceptable criticism.

The Court was therefore not convinced that the reasons advanced by the domestic courts for protecting freedom of expression outweighed the right of the applicant to have his reputation safeguarded. There had accordingly been a violation of Article 8.

Judges Loucaides and Schäffer expressed dissenting opinions, which are annexed to the judgment.

Mediabeak thinks this is a significant judgment that will back the trend to argue Article 8 violation in defamation actions.