Thursday, 24 October 2013

Joe Brolly - "Social media is not exempt from the laws of the land"

Short, sweet and to the point:

Carson McDowell media lawyer and blogger Olivia O'Kane made an important contribution:

Monday, 14 October 2013

Sergei Magnitsky libel claim - blow to libel tourism

The high court found that a Russian ex-policeman does not have prior reputation to defend in England and Wales. Mr Justice Simon at the Royal Courts of Justice said:
"His connection with this country is exiguous and, although he can point to the continuum publication in this country, there is 'a degree of artificiality' about his seeking to protect his reputation in this country."

Dr Andrew Foxall of the Henry Jackson Society said of the decision: "Today's ruling sends out a message that British courts will no longer be used to or abused to stifle or halt freedom of speech."

Friday, 11 October 2013

Christopher Hitchens on Censoring Pornography

In an essay on free speechChristopher   Hitchens called the urge to censor pornography a red-herring. He said:
"Other attempts at abridging free expression also come dressed up in superficially attractive packaging. As an example, surely we should forbid child pornography? In a sense this is a red herring: Anybody involved in any way in using children for sex is already prosecutable for a multitude of extremely grave crimes. Free expression doesn’t really come into it. The censor is more likely to prosecute a book like Nabokov’s Lolita and yet have no power to challenge porn czars. And surely the spending of money isn’t a form of free speech, as our Supreme Court has more than once held it is, most recently, as pertaining to political campaign contributions."

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Abolish Northern Ireland's Blasphemy Law

There's now an effort to abolish the old blasphemy law that still exists in Northern Ireland. See here:
"Blasphemy and blasphemous libel are legal offences in Northern Ireland.

In May 2008, blasphemy laws were abolished by the UK Parliament but this did not extend to Northern Ireland, leaving the matter to be decided by the NI Assembly which has shown no interest in addressing the issue.

Abolition of these archaic laws will bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of UK legislation. It will also be a symbolic act showing that Northern Ireland is finally moving away from religious prejudice, is shunning its fundamentalist elements and is prepared to embrace an inclusive, tolerant and secular future.

Blasphemy laws are used throughout the world to prevent free speech and to oppress and persecute religious minorities. Repeal of the Northern Ireland blasphemy laws will show solidarity with the oppressed while raising awareness of the issue and setting an example for other countries to follow."
Michael Nugent also wrote a compelling piece in The Journal on Ireland's blasphemy law in the summer 2013. He said:
"The Irish blasphemy law reinforces the religious ethos of the 1937 Constitution. The preamble states that all authority of the State comes from a specific god called the Most Holy Trinity. You cannot become President or be appointed as a Judge unless you take a religious oath. There are also other references in the Constitution to religion, as opposed to gods. We should be removing 1930s theistic references from the Irish Constitution, or updating them to reflect the reality of Ireland today, not legislating to enforce them."

Friday, 4 October 2013

Blasphemy Laws still stand in Northern Ireland

Blasphemy was abolished in England and Wales in 2008 through the action of Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris who described the law as, "ancient, discriminatory, unnecessary, illiberal and non-human rights compliant."

Because the law applied only to Christians and in fact the Church of England representing Anglican views. So that was born out of events from 1989 when someone tried to get permission to have a summons presented against Salmon Rushdie in respect of his novel, The Satanic Verses. That wasn't allowed because Islam was not protected by the blasphemy laws.

The last time a case was brought was by the state against an individual in 1922 who compared Jesus with a circus clown and they were sentenced to hard labour. After that there was nothing until the case of Mary Whitehouse which was brought in the 1977 when the art teacher used the law to try and prosecute the editor of Gay News. The ground for her action was on the basis that the publication has published an explicit poem about Jesus. They were found guilty by a majority of 10-2 and every court in the land upheld it.

Chris Ledgard said of Northern Ireland: "So, thinking about Northern Ireland, if I wanted to read out the poem on this programme, it probably wouldn't be a very good idea?"

Nicola Cain said: "Not if we're broadcasting to Northern Ireland but I also think we'd probably be in breach of our guidelines as well."

The law that was abolished in England and Wales in 2008 still stands in Northern Ireland. The law was so old in Scotland that it fell into non-use and became unusable in modern times.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Radio 4 - Language Laws


Chris Ledgard recently looked at the laws surrounding language use, from libel to blasphemy. He was joined by Barristers Nicola Cain and Christina Michalos who explained the law surrounding
defamation. We live in a society governed by laws which limit what we can say and how and where, laws concerning privacy, defamation and incitement.

If you say anything that it likely to lower the reputation of a person in the eyes of someone else, that's when you start to get into trouble. UK courts have been very busy in recent years on defamation, for which it took the title, "libel capital of the world." The new Defamation Act 2013 aims to change this. Aiming to offer better protection yo indiviudals, journalists, scientists and academics who wish to publish and air opinions without the fear of being taken to court under action of libel.

Barrister Nicola Cain was asked, "What is defamation?" She responded:
"Defamation is the publication of words or images that tend to damage the reputation of another. It's about reputation and bringing that person into disrepute. Libel is any publication in any more permanent form. So that may be a broadsheet, a newspaper or anything more permanent. 
Whereas slander relates only to transitory speech. So if we were having a conversation and I said something that was defamatory, that would be slanderous rather libellous. It has to be heard by somone else otherwise it is not a publication."

Why Stormont must adopt new libel legislation

Paul Connolly wrote a piece in the Belfast Telegraph on September 20 2013 entitled, 'Freedom of speech is vital in internet age.' He said here:
"By everyone, I mean everyone. This is not just about the Press. It's about writers and scientists; it's also about amateur bloggers or everyone who sends a Tweet or writes on Facebook or who runs a community website, or who writes a Press release. We are all publishers now, so freedom of speech matters even more in the internet age."
At the launch of his Bill for libel reform on September 19 2013, Mike Nesbitt said:
"Reforming Northern Ireland's law of defamation isn't about protecting the rich and powerful. It is about ensuring thousands of jobs are not lost, that the growth potential of our universities is not hampered, and that journalists have maximum opportunity to responsibly hold the devolved government to account."
At the same event Lord Black, executive director of the Telegraph Media Group, said here:
"This is an issue which is of huge significance for the United Kingdom as a whole but most importantly for ordinary people, jobs and free speech in Northern Ireland. Let's be in no doubt, the stakes are very high. It is a liberalising, modernising law which will have real benefit throughout our society. That is why it is totally unjustifiable and completely inexplicable that people and businesses in Northern Ireland are being excluded from the real benefits and protection it will bring."