Monday, 24 February 2014

The Guardian's Gill Phillips on press freedoms

[VIDEO: Q&A session with Gill Philips at the Hong Kong Media Law and Policy in the Internet Age Policy Conference, here also.]

Gill Philips (@ladywell23) is a media lawyer and head of legal at The Guardian. She gave witness to the Leveson Inquiry here and later said that the process has been "disastrous". During her career Phillips has witnessed the rise of the internet and social networking sites and has watched as technology has transformed the media and how extensively media law has struggled to keep pace.

In an interview with The Lawyer magazine here, she explained how, where the civil law had dominated, the criminal law has encroached more and more into the realm of the press and communications:
"When I started doing media litigation it was primarily civil litigation – civil cases brought by private individuals. Now, there is much more crime around. The criminal law has encroached more and more into free speech."
She contrasted legacy media with social media and explained how people are starting to pick up good practice and proper behavioural norms:
"When you are a mainstream news organisation, you do obey the law. If you are given a court order telling you not to do something, you obey it. That can put you at odds with social media, where people do not feel restrained in the same way, although that gap is narrowing as people realise the consequences."
She spoke of the press freedom that exists in the UK and the contrasted EU freedoms with those in the US:
"The UK is one of the most restrictive publication arenas, while America is the other extreme. The reason is the First Amendment. If we look at Europe, it is Article 10, and it is qualified. Big difference."
Phillips explained that this ever-present threat of legal action from any corner of the globe is extremely challenging:
"We publish everywhere and the legal test is that if you are downloadable somewhere then that is akin to publishing in that country. We have been threatened with action in Pakistan and Zimbabwe. We have been sued in France, Greece, Italy – you cannot possibly know all of the laws in all of those countries. You have to take informed judgements and get external legal advice."

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