Barrister and co-author Mark Polden chats with @journlaw on #defamation defences: #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON

Defamation laws can be intimidating for journalists, bloggers and other professional communicators. The key, according to barrister Mark Polden, is in researching and writing to the basic defences.

Mark Polden was in-house counsel at Fairfax Media for many years before going to the Bar, and is my co-author of The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law (Allen & Unwin).

In this 11 minute interview with @journlaw, he outlines in simple terms the three ‘bread and butter’ defences used by writers and publishers – truth, fair report and honest opinion (fair comment).

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Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2014

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Filed under blogging, contempt of court, courts, free expression, media ethics, Media freedom, media law, Press freedom, sub judice, suppression, Uncategorized

On Skype with @journlaw – barrister and co-author Mark Polden on #defamation basics: #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON

Exactly what is defamation and how does it apply to your average journalist or blogger?

That’s what I asked barrister Mark Polden in this short interview on defamation basics. Mark Polden was in-house counsel at Fairfax Media for many years before going to the Bar, and is my co-author of The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law (Allen & Unwin).

Here he offers a lay definition of defamation and gives some examples of how journalists, bloggers and other professional communicators might write to minimise the threat of legal action.

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Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2014

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MsLods’ news round-up: law + technology

journlaw:

Another terrific media law and technology curation from @MsLods

Originally posted on MsLods:

Copyright

Ex-MP3tunes chief hit with $41 million copyright verdict. | Reuters | http://reut.rs/1fBMNTp

Piracy notwithstanding, MPAA enjoys a “very strong year” – again. | Ars Technica | http://bit.ly/QupJAu

Hargreaves implementation: draft regulations on copyright exception tabled before UK parliament. | The IPKat | http://bit.ly/1gcxujb

Cloud denialism preceded Aereo case. | Project DisCo | http://bit.ly/1jmBzXr

Defamation & media law

Protecting journalist-source privilege in Australia. | Media Law Northern Ireland | http://bit.ly/1hNMF3t

NSW courts to open doors to cameras. | Minister for Justice | http://bit.ly/QuoWPX

Privacy & information security

Hackonomics: Stolen Twitter accounts ‘more valuable’ than credit cards. | ZDNet |  http://zd.net/1e0lku2

We’re listening: Additional steps to protect your privacy.  | Microsoft | http://bit.ly/1gcuwLJ

No NSA reform can fix the American Islamophobic surveillance complex. | The Guardian | http://bit.ly/1fBLbsQ

Labor resurrects data notification bill.  | IT News | http://bit.ly/1iNHNi9

A Castan Centre event: Surveillance and privacy in the digital age (2 April, Melbourne)…

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15 mins with @journlaw – Peter Gregory on the art of court reporting #MLGriff #medialaw

By MARK PEARSON

What is the secret to good court reporting? Highly experienced court reporter and academic Peter Gregory [@petergregory17] – author of Court Reporting in Australia (Cambridge University Press, 2005) – tells @journlaw the essential techniques needed by a journalist wanting to cover the court reporting round.

CourtReportinginAustraliacoverGregory explains how he recently returned to duty when he filled in to cover the sentencing of Adrian Bayley for the murder of Jill Meagher – in a marathon 12 hour shift!

He discusses the court reporter’s difficulties in writing fair and accurate reports of trials, particularly when they might be unfolding in different courtrooms at the same time.

He also gives tips on how a journalist might stand up in court to oppose a suppression order being imposed by a judge or magistrate.

Useful viewing for journalism and law students – and for anyone wanting an insight into the work of the court reporter.

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Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2014

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Blended learning and instructional scaffolding in a Media Law course

By MARK PEARSON

I’m thoroughly enjoying a revitalised enthusiasm for my media law teaching thanks to the Blended Learning team at Griffith University.

I’ve recently been a student in an Online Course Development course run by expert faculty in my Arts, Education and Law group and have been keenly trying to build the various blended learning strategies into the Blackboard interface for both the on-campus and Open Universities Australia versions of my Media Law course.

The Media Law course’s pedagogy and assessment tasks are built around both problem-based learning and instructional scaffolding.

It is module-based, with each module’s integrated learning tools and materials contained in the Course Content area (see screen capture).

The Course Content part of the Learning@Griffith site for the Media Law course

The Course Content part of the Learning@Griffith site for the Media Law course

The modules are designed so that students progressively learn the material and work towards their assessment as the semester unfolds, whether they are studying on-campus or online, or via a combination of the two (‘blended learning’).

They are aware that their learning tasks each week feed directly into their end of semester examination, which is essentially requires them to demonstrate summatively their skills and understandings they have already been workshopping in a formative sense throughout the semester.

Each week’s problem is centred upon the module’s readings (including a textbook chapter) and other learning activities, including lectures, short video introductions to each module, tutorials, video interviews of 10-15 mins with an expert ‘guest of the week’, and  discussion board and social media engagement. [Some of these techniques I have also refined through my recent  enrolment in 'Massive Open Online Courses' offered by Coursera and Canvas.]

The instructional scaffolding approach to assessment links attendance and online participation with assessment items that relate directly to those activities.

For example, students complete Weekly Learning Reflections about the media law problem of the week (submitted and assessed twice in the semester as collated portfolios). These then form the basis of questions in students’ end of semester examination and their written preparation for their weekly learning problem rubrics become their actual study notes for their open-book final exam. This leads to a purposive approach to student weekly readings and other learning tasks, aimed to enrich their learning through its focus on a problem and an ultimate assessment reward.

Similarly, students complete a short multiple choice online quiz at the end of each learning module – which is at that stage non-assessable (formative) and is only available for a two week period after that module has ended. They know their final end of semester summative multiple choice quiz will later be drawn from the pool of these very questions, rewarding students who have completed their reading and undertaken the formative assessment along the way.

Do you have other techniques you have been using effectively in teaching media law? Please let me know via the Comments section here or via Twitter at @journlaw.

© Mark Pearson 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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15 mins with @journlaw – Peter Gregory on ‘contempt and the court reporter’ #MLGriff #medialaw

By MARK PEARSON

We hear about the many types of contempt affecting the role of the court reporter – but how does a journalist manage this in practice?

That is exactly the issue I raised with veteran court reporter (now academic) Peter Gregory [@petergregory17] in this interview covering the main types of contempt of court affecting court reporting – contempt in the face of the court, disobedience contempt, sub judice (prejudicial reporting) and interference with the deliberations of jurors.

Gregory – author of Court Reporting in Australia (Cambridge University Press, 2005) – explains how court reporters might be affected by such forms of contempt, offers examples from his own career, and suggests how journalists might adjust their own practice to minimise risk.

CourtReportinginAustraliacoverHe looks at the impact of new technologies – particularly social media – in the courtroom. Finally, he assesses the dynamics of social media and traditional media at play in the major Victorian trial of the murderer of Irishwoman Jill Meagher (Adrian Bayley) which resulted in the jailing of blogger Derryn Hinch on a contempt charge after disobeying a suppression order.

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Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2014

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Threatening letters from officialdom chill free expression – @journlaw blog #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON Follow @Journlaw

[With research assistance from RSF interns Toni Mackey and Eve Soliman]

Intimidating letters sent by two of Australia’s most senior public servants in recent weeks sound alarm bells for free expression and a free media.

The first – from the secretary for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection Martin Bowles – was directed to freelance journalist Asher Wolf following her co-written article for the Guardian Australia on February  19, 2014 titled ‘Immigration Department data lapse reveals asylum seekers’ personal details‘.

The database Wolf had sourced via the Department’s own public website contained personal details of one third of all asylum seekers held in Australia – almost 10,000 adults and children.

The department secretary’s letter implied Wolf had obtained the material on which the article was based by ‘dishonest or unfair means’. She says the data was simply sitting on the department’s website. Bowles demanded Wolf agree not to publish the contents and ‘return all hard and soft copies of the information’ including any her storage devices.

You can view the letter here: WolfDIBP to The Guardian – A Wolf.

And in this 11 minute interview Wolf explains the episode in her own words:

On advice from her lawyers she wrote back, refusing to provide the department with anything and cited her ethical obligation as a journalist to protect her sources. To date there has been no further word from the department since that February 26 reply.

Wolf explained to @journlaw: “The response from the Government was to reframe the issue rather than sort of saying ‘whoops we made a mistake, sorry, let’s fix it up’. It was to frame it as though it had been illicitly accessed, that the confidential information had to be given back, that the files had to be given back.”

The second intimidating letter was to a politician rather than a journalist, but is no less alarming for its potential chilling effect on free expression – and all the more alarming because it involved a military chief writing direct to a senator-elect.

Chief of the Australian Defence Force General David Hurley wrote to Palmer United Party senator-elect Jacqui Lambie on March 7, following the Tasmanian politician’s claims in a media release that sexual abuse in the military was ‘an intractable problem’.

His letter stated he was disappointed she issued a media release before raising her concerns with him and encouraged her to first provide him an opportunity to reply to any such claims in the future. See the letter here: HurleyToLambieLetter

In her response (LambieReply to Australia’s Chief of Defence’s letter of complaint), Lambie – a former soldier – described General Hurley’s letter as disrespectful, condescending and improper.

“For you as the head of our defence force to take the unprecedented and extraordinary step of trying to influence an elected member of parliament by sending a letter with such a patronizing and condescending tone is a disgrace,” she wrote.

She raised the possibility of the letter constituting a contempt of parliament as an improper interference “with the free performance by a senator of the senator’s duties as a senator”.

Of course, that might be too long a stretch, but it is certainly of concern when top military and immigration officials start writing direct to journalists and politicians chiding them for their public statements and implying some wrongdoing on their part.

It is spin and ‘media management’ gone way too far – and is symptomatic of nations far lower down Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index than Australia’s.

Both Immigration Secretary Bowles and General Hurley undoubtedly have a host of excuses for penning those letters. Bowles was clearly trying to limit the damage from the privacy leak, and indeed has obligations under the Privacy Act to demonstrate his department has done what it can to retrieve leaked information and minimise any damage caused. Hurley was clearly frustrated by a politician’s insistence on making unspecified claims of abuse when there were inquiries and other avenues for complaints to be made.

But many other strategies were available to them to deal with these issues short of writing stern reprimands from their own desks, directly to a journalist and a politician. The democratic doctrine of ‘separation of powers’ is somewhat blurry in Australia, and it is made all the more so when senior members of the executive engage in public spats with the media and politicians.

I cannot imagine that such high level officials would not realise, or be advised, that their intimidating letters would not reach the public domain. If they thought they would remain secret, then we must ask important questions about how frequently this technique is being used. If they understood their letters would likely go public, then the threat to free expression is all the more chilling.

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

© Mark Pearson 2014

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