Wednesday, 30 April 2014

SmithDehn and Social Construct launch in Derry

Eugene McNamee (@EugeneMcNamee), head of UU School of Law, Zak Kilberg (@SocialConstruct) of Social Construct and Russell Smith (@rsmith8) of Smith Dehn speaking at the joint launch fo SmithDehn LLP and Social Construct in Derry.
We were in attendance and had a great time. Big things are happening in Derry, Northern Ireland and Ireland. These are exciting times to be a forward thinking lawyer.
Irish News report here.BBC report here. The Lawyer reports here. Derry Daily reports here. SyncNI here. Our previous report from January 7 on the media law curriculum being taught in Derry, and the talk about SmithDehn coming to the second city here.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Hugh Tomlinson QC - Privacy and Defamation, Strasbourg blurs the boundaries

It is now clearly established in the case law of the Court of Human Rights that Article 8 protects the “right to reputation” as an aspect of private life. This is a relatively new idea, first appearing the case law as recently as 2004 (see Chauvy v France [70]).

The development was a controversial one because “reputation” was deliberately left out of Article 8 when the Convention was drafted (see our posts by Heather Rogers QC “Is there a right to reputation?“, Part 1 and Part 2). Nevertheless, the case law in both Strasbourg and the domestic courts is clear and consistent and is not likely to be reversed.

Dealing with reputation as a Convention Right: the first nine years

The recognition of reputation as a Convention right means that, when it considers defamation cases, the Court needs to balance freedom of expression and reputation from a starting point that neither takes precedence. This is a similar exercise to that carried out in privacy cases and there is a clear risk of the boundary between privacy and defamation becoming blurred (see generally, “Strasbourg on Privacy and Reputation”, Parts 1, 2 and 3).

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Introducing News Sniffer (@news_sniffer)

Yesterday we introduced, today it's News Sniffer. A tool and tracker that does the same job but for the banner online newspapers.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Introducing (@IrishNewsDiffs)

Further explanation here:
"Irish NewsDiffs archives changes in articles after publication. Currently, we track, and
NewsDiffs, which was born out of the Knight Mozilla MIT hackathon in June 2012, is trying to solve the problem of archiving news in the constantly evolving world of online journalism.

The original NewsDiffs is at

This version was launched in April 2014 to track changes to Irish news websites.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Event - Launch of the Libel Reform Campaign Northern Ireland

The Libel Reform Campaign present a petition with 60,000 signatures to Downing Street in 2012
The immensely successful Libel Reform Campaign is coming to Belfast and Northern Ireland (sign up here):
"On Wednesday 7 May at 10am the Libel Reform Campaign will be bringing together writers, journalists, scientists, academics, human rights advocates and civil society to form a coalition to bring reform of the law of libel to Northern Ireland. 
With the launch of the Northern Ireland Law Commission consultation on libel reform expected in the coming months, a strong coalition will be needed that makes the case for reform of these archaic laws. You can read the campaign's criticisms of the law and the process that led to the new Defamation Act not being applied to Northern Ireland here and here
We would very much appreciate your participation in this coalition and your attendance at this event to bring together the coalition. I will be joined by Jo Glanville from English PEN, Sile Lane from Sense About Science and other Libel Reform campaigners. 
The event will be hosted in The Lab at the Belfast MAC (10 Exchange Street West, Belfast BT1 2NJ) from 10am - 12.30pm on 7 May. Plenty of coffee and pastries will be provided."
Sign up and register your attendance here.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

ECJ strikes down Data Retention Directive

[PREFACE - United States]

On December 16 2013 the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia Judge Richard Leon ruled that NSA spying was likely to be unconstitutional. He called it "almost Orwellian".

On December 28 2013 in ACLU v. James Clapper, US District Judge William Pauley diverged from a ruling by Judge Richard Leon that questioned the NSA's constitutionality. He called it a counter-punch to terrorism. He raising the prospect that the Supreme Court will need to resolve the issue.


Europe has struck down the Data Retention Directive (Directive 2006/24/EC). A European law, made in 2006, that required telecommunications firms to collect and store data (locations, calls, texts and emails.) for at least six months and up to two years. Europe's highest court, the ECJ, heard the case after requests from Irish and Austrian courts.

The ECJ declared the law "invalid" and in contravention of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The law violated two basic rights:

One, respect for private life.

Two, protection of personal data.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The trouble with conflict journalism

The State Visit of Michael D. Higgins to England and the banquet coincided with a BBC broadcast on alleged IRA gunrunner "Spike" Murray. This caused quite a stir on Twitter. This shows how conflict journalism remains controversial and divided. Some taking a censorial stance. Others more frontal. It shows how some stories could be hidden by fear of causing instability.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

New Scholarship supported by Sky and the Royal Television Society Northern Ireland

Sky with support of the Royal Television Society NI launches TV scholarship in partnership with National Film School at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT)

Sky have announced details of a new Sky Academy TV Scholarship to be made available on the Masters (MA) in Broadcast Production course offered by The National Film School at the Dun Laoghaire IADT from September. The scholarship is part of Sky Academy, a set of initiatives which aim to use the power of television, creativity and sport to give up to one million young people in the UK and Ireland opportunities to build skills, experience and self-belief. The scholarship will be offered by Sky, supported by The Royal Television Society (RTS), to individuals who may not otherwise have the financial means to support themselves through further study, or may not have considered a career in the media for financial reasons. It is part of Sky's commitment to support and encourage emerging talent at grassroots level.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Paul Tweed to launch JAMS Ireland

Martin McGuinness with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and PM David Cameron
Former IRA commander Martin McGuinness attended the State Banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth. The Irish Times wrote:
"Had you asked anyone of a certain generation in Northern Ireland if they could ever see the Queen of England and Martin McGuiinness sitting down to have dinner you'd have been told to 'Get Your  Head Seen.'
On this occassion, Paul Tweed (@Paul_Tweed) has announced his intention to launch JAMS Ireland, specialising in finding solutions for political and diplomatic disputes within Ireland and across the globe. The Company will have facilities in Belfast and Dublin and will bring together a panel of experts including Brian Mawhinney (former Northern Ireland Minister) and Paul O'Higgins SC (Chairman - Irish Bar Council).

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Monday, 7 April 2014

Intimidating and criminalising journalism

Glenn Greenwald with his partner who was detained in Heathrow under the Terrorism Act
[Earlier post by Brian Spencer on criminalising journalism in the US here]

In 2003 the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) raiding the house of  two well known journalists, Liam Clarke (@LIAMCLARKECJ) and Kathryn Johnston (@kathrynjohnston). The police removed 21 bagfuls of the computers and material and detained the two journalists for 23 hours. Police searched their home and battered down the door of their office.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Mick Fealty - Censoring dissent in Northern Ireland with violence and intimidation

Northern Ireland playwright Gary Mitchell was forced into hiding by a loyalist gang
Northern Ireland paramilitaries and gangs are notoriously intolerant of dissent or people who speak out. Mick Fealty said in an article in the Guardian, 'Freedom of speech: a matter of life and death':
"[Sean O'Callaghan speaks of] the burdensome intolerance of dissent which inflects all manner of political and cultural discourse [in Northern Ireland]. In the pre-modern political realities of significant parts of Belfast - expulsion is the preferred option. 
And as [Glenn] Patterson argues, this intolerance cuts across the cultural divide. The consequent loss of the talent represented by the forced departure of playwright Gary Mitchell damages all of Northern Ireland's society. It should serve as a warning to the post modern world beyond his native Rathcoole Estate, of the nasty consequences of the routine compromising of freedom of speech and expression."
Gary Mitchell was forced out of his home in the Belfast suburb of Rathcoole in November 2005. This happened after his house was attacked by loyalist paramilitaries. He also received a death-threat. He and his family are now living in hiding somewhere in Northern Ireland.

Mick Fealty in full here.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Brian Spencer - The DUP's fight against Libel Reform

GRAPHIC on the story of Libel Reform in Northern Ireland (in full here)
[This was originally published on and Off the Record]
(updated below)

Introducing the Defamation Act 2013

On January 1 2014 the Defamation Act 2013 came into effect in England and Wales.

The new law strengthens freedom of expression and gives a warm hand to journalists, writers, academics and scientists. The new law increases the freedom of readers to receive information. The new law strengthens the free speech position of every internet, social media and Twitter user. Olivia O’Kane explains the changes here.

Northern Ireland retains the old law. A law described by the UK as a “national embarrassment” and by the US as “repugnant” to their Constitution. A law slated by Geoffrey Bindman QC in 1994 as “seriously unbalanced and fundamentally flawed”. In fact, the US enacted the SPEECH Act in 2010 whose very purpose was to nullify and negate the chilling effect of our speech law on their US-based journalists.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Robinson and McGuinness tried to block FOI by saying disclosure would cost them votes

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness argued that they should be allowed to block an FOI request on the the grounds that releasing it could cost the votes. The OFMDFM is one of only four UK institutions tabbed by the Information Commission because of its poor record in complying with the Freedom of Information Act. The Information Commissioner, the watchdog which enforces the open government law, said: 
"The electoral prospects of individuals are not strictly a relevant factor when weighing the public interest in the disclosure of information."
The attempt to block the FOI procedure came after the News Letter made a response for the department’s ‘risk register’. The Information Commissioner dismissed the claim and ordered OFMDFM to provide the information by May 1 2014.