Rare criminal defamation charge in Queensland – #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON

QUEENSLAND police have charged a Sunshine Coast man with criminal defamation under a rarely used provision of the Criminal Code 1899.

They will allege he distributed pamphlets to neighbourhood homes claiming a former associate was a paedophile.

As Lord Denning, in the 1977 Goldsmith case, said, ‘A criminal libel is so serious that the offender should be punished for it by the state itself. He should either be sent to prison or made to pay a fine to the state itself’ (at 485).

As we explain in the sixth edition of The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law (Pearson and Polden, Allen & Unwin, 2019, pp 298-299), instances of criminal defamation usually arise between ordinary citizens rather than in the media.

Examples include the Wineries case (1998), where a disgruntled businessman penned a letter, purportedly from his business partner’s wife, in which she described her husband as someone who ‘engages in adultery, deception, taxation fraud and is a confidence trickster’ who could be ‘compared to the worst, most infectious, bacterial parasite which can only be found at the bottom of the most unhygienic sewage scum swamp’.

The man sent the letter to at least one South Australian winery and pleaded guilty to criminal defamation.

In 2001, a quadriplegic woman and her mother were charged with six counts of criminal defamation after they allegedly posted notices accusing townsfolk of perjuring themselves in her compensation claim against the local council and its swimming pool operators (Quadriplegic case, 2001). Police later dropped the charges.

Horse racing identities Robert and William Waterhouse prosecuted the producer and reporter of an ABC Four Corners program. The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions eventually stepped in to prevent the defamation prosecutions from proceeding because the defence of qualified privilege was going to be available (Waterhouse case, 1988).

The most famous instance in Australia was the politically motivated prosecution of leftist author Frank Hardy for criminal libel over his volcanic first novel Power Without Glory in August 1950, which he successfully defended.

Sadly, criminal defamation and seditious libel have often been used as political weapons against opposition groups and the media in many small Commonwealth countries.

For media law geeks, the Queensland legislation reads as follows:

—–

CRIMINAL CODE 1899 – SECT 365

Criminal defamation

365 Criminal defamation

(1) Any person who, without lawful excuse, publishes matter defamatory of another living person (the
“relevant person” )—

(a) knowing the matter to be false or without having regard to whether the matter is true or false; and

(b) intending to cause serious harm to the relevant person or any other person or without having regard to whether serious harm to the relevant person or any other person is caused;

commits a misdemeanour.

Penalty—

Maximum penalty—3 years imprisonment.

(2) In a proceeding for an offence defined in this section, the accused person has a lawful excuse for the publication of defamatory matter about the relevant person if, and only if, subsection (3) applies.

(3) This subsection applies if the accused person would, having regard only to the circumstances happening before or at the time of the publication, have had a relevant defencefor the publication if the relevant person had brought civil proceedings for defamation against the accused person.

(4) The prosecution has the burden of negativing the existence of a lawful excuse if, and only if, evidence directed to establishing the excuse is first adduced by or on behalf of the accused person.

(5) Whether the matter complained of is capable of bearing a defamatory meaning is a question of law.

(6) Whether the matter complained of does bear a defamatory meaning is a question of fact.

(7) A person can not be prosecuted for an offence defined in this section without the consent of the director of public prosecutions.

(8) In this section—
“defamatory” has the meaning that it has in the law of tort (as modified by the Defamation Act 2005 ) relating to defamation.
“modified statutory defence of justification” means the defence stated in the Defamation Act 2005 section 25 as if that section provided that it is a defence to the publication of defamatory matter if the defendant proves that—

(a) the defamatory imputations carried by the matter of which the relevant person complains are substantially true; and

(b) it was for the public benefit that the publication should be made.

“publish” has the meaning that it has in the law of tort (as modified by the Defamation Act 2005 ) relating to defamation.
“relevant defence” means—

(a) a defence available under the Defamation Act 2005 other than—

(i) the statutory defence of justification; or

(ii) the statutory defence of failure to accept reasonable offer; or

(b) the modified statutory defence of justification; or

(c) a defence available other than under the Defamation Act 2005 , including under the general law.

“statutory defence of failure to accept reasonable offer” means the defence stated in the Defamation Act 2005 section 18 (1) .
“statutory defence of justification” means the defence stated in the Defamation Act 2005 section 25 .

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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 2019

 

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Last chance for a NSW law reform preliminary submission on open justice #MLGriff

By MARK PEARSON

Preliminary submissions to the NSW Law Reform Commission’s open justice review close tomorrow (May 31).

Media law students who have done assignments on this topic might polish them up and submit.

The review is examining the operation of suppression and non-publication orders and access to information in NSW courts and tribunals.

See their site for:

The Commission is  inviting preliminary submissions to help frame the issues they should address in consultations. Later in 2019, they promise to produce one or more consultation papers that ask about the issues identified by the terms of reference and any preliminary submissions they receive.

The deadline for preliminary submissions is Friday 31 May 2019.

Information about making a submission may be found on t website: Making a submission

 

© Mark Pearson 2019

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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Building mindfulness into the online media law curriculum

By MARK PEARSON

Our Arts Education and Law group at Griffith University held a learning and teaching symposium on the Gold Coast this week.

I was invited to speak on my incorporation of mindfulness into the curriculum and pedagogy, and to explain how I have been using a single course site to service on-campus and online students in a single cohort.

Here is a PDF file of my presentation for educators and students who might be interested in the approach.

 

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 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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Vale Shelton Gunaratne

By MARK PEARSON

Esteemed journalism education colleague Emeritus Professor Dhavalasri Shelton Abeywickreme Gunaratne died in Minnesota on March 8.

Emeritus Professor Shelton Gunaratne

Many journalism educators knew Shelton through his active membership of the (then) Journalism Education Association during and after his term at Central Queensland University from 1976-1985, where he had been the founding lecturer in journalism at what was then known as the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education (CIAE). He was later appointed professor of mass communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Shelton was an active member of numerous international journalism and communication organisations, including the AEJMC, ICA, IAMCR and AMIC – which in 2016 awarded him the AMIC Asia Communication Award for 2016 in recognition of his “ground-breaking scholarship and intellectual contribution to Asian media and communication research.”

I am particularly indebted to Shelton for his mentorship on the relationship between journalism and Buddhist ethics and phenomenology, which he introduced to the literature with The Dao of the Press : A Humanocentric Theory (Hampton Press, 2005) – a deeply theoretical and cerebral exploration of the inter-connectedness of all things, modelling the media’s role in that process.

He kindly invited me to co-edit (with his former PhD student Sugath Senarath) our book Mindful Journalism and News Ethics in the Digital Era: A Buddhist Approach (Routledge, 2015). That project continues, and I acknowledge his input into my work as my mentor and friend.

The author (right) with his mentor, Emeritus Professor Shelton Gunaratne, at the AEJMC convention in Minneapolis in 2016

I spoke on the phone with his widow Yoke-Sim who had loyally nursed him through the final stages of Parkinson’s Disease. She reported that Shelton was sharp to the very end.

Shelton believed strongly in the ripple effect of one’s actions upon others, and I know his intellectual outputs will have a lasting impact upon journalism and mass communication scholarship, educators and students.

For the information of US colleagues, a memorial service has been organized for March 15 (Friday) at Minnesota State University Moorhead, Comstock Memorial Union 205 between 6-8 p.m. An almsgiving (dania) will be held at the Gunaratne residence (3215 Village Green Drive, Moorhead, MN 56560) on March 16.

RIP Shelton, and thanks for your legacy.

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 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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Building journalists’ resilience through mindfulness strategies: article published in ‘Journalism’

By MARK PEARSON

Our article on the potential applications for mindfulness-based meditation in journalism has now been published in the top-ranked international academic journal Journalism.

The publication is the fruit of more than two years of project collaboration with my colleagues from Griffith University (Professor Analise O’Donovan) and the Dart Centre Asia Pacific (Dr Cait McMahon OAM). Co-author Dustin O’Shannessy provided valuable research assistance and co-authorship.

Here is the abstract for the article, with the full text available via the Sage site (best accessed via your library if you are a student or academic):

Pearson, M., McMahon, C., O’Donovan, A., & O’Shannessy, D. (2019). Building journalists’ resilience through mindfulness strategies. Journalismhttps://doi.org/10.1177/1464884919833253

Mindfulness-based meditation has earned its place in a variety of settings after studies reporting the benefits of mindfulness-based interventions for the treatment of a range of psychological and health disorders and for building resilience and well-being in a variety of occupational groups. In the field of journalism, the realities of journalists’ exposure to trauma while reporting have been well documented. This article is the first to link those areas of research – suggesting that mindfulness-based meditation offers promise to help journalists build resilience to post-traumatic stress. It also presents a conceptual map to theorise the broader potential benefits of journalists using mindfulness-based meditation, including help with industry-related stresses such as job insecurity, coping with emotions and battling potential ‘moral injury’ in reporting. It explains that pedagogical approaches for equipping journalists with mechanisms for working with their emotions, thoughts and professional values have been lacking. Some media organisations and universities have experimented with meditation practice for a range of reported reasons, but evidence-based research into the efficacy of such programmes for journalists is overdue. This article bridges the knowledge gap that brings together mindfulness-based meditation practice, journalists’ resilience and well-being, and the potential for enhanced work practice.

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 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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Introducing a mindful approach to media law education

By MARK PEARSON

I spoke last week at the Professional Futures Conference at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University, on my approach to using mindfulness in media law classes.

The abstract for the presentation explained the topic:

Mindfulness can be defined and adopted in many ways in the teaching of media law. This paper outlines the basic principles and explains the likely benefits for participants in learning, teaching and research, detailing some of the key research underpinning the field and offering some examples of its application in media law. The author explains his applications of mindful reflective practice in both his leading media law textbook and in his media law course, which offers the potential to strengthen graduates’ resilience, deepen their learning, and shore up their moral compasses as they enter occupations where their work can expose them to trauma and the industry disruption can subject them to stress, burnout and other mental health challenges.

For those interested, I reproduce the slides from the presentation here:

 

 

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 2019 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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It’s here – our sixth edition ready for the 2019 academic year

By MARK PEARSON

An advance copy of the sixth edition of The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law (Allen & Unwin, 2019) which I co-author with Mark Polden just arrived in my letter box, ready for the 2019 academic year.

JGML6eCOVERorangeThe new edition has had major revisions. Some highlights of important new content covered in the sixth edition include:

  • consideration of several recent High Court decisions impacting on free expression, publication and media law defences
  • legal implications of ‘fake’ or false news
  • a new table summarising the mindful approach to media law practice, mapping situations against approaches
  • major criminal cases challenging the boundaries of open justice, including those involving high profile church figures and celebrities
  • new case studies in navigating crime reporting with a focus on the Yahoo!7 story that prompted the discharge of a jury in a murder trial
  • significant developments in defamation law, including record damages awards to actor Rebel Wilson (reduced after appeal) and barrister Lloyd Rayney
  • important new research showing that many more defamation actions are being brought by private individuals over internet and social media publications, as distinct from celebrities suing the media
  • examination of publisher liability for the comments of third parties in the wake of several new cases, with some holding publishers responsible
  • an update on confidentiality of sources, including some new breach of confidence actions and some cases testing the limits of new shield laws for journalists
  • a review of the suite of new anti-terrorism laws impacting the media’s reporting of crime and national security and jeopardising the confidentiality of their sources
  • key new intellectual property cases that have shed light on the media’s use of material sourced from the internet and social media
  • significant cases showing the rapidly developing body of privacy law in the digital era
  • new material in the law of freelancing, public relations and new media entrepreneurship showing the growing legal risks and responsibilities at the business end of communication practice.

There is also an increased emphasis on the higher pressure and pace of the 24/7 news cycle across a range of media, exacerbating the risks to communicators and publishers through their own work and the contributions of third-party commenters on their social media feeds and sites.

Like earlier editions, the book aims to give professional communicators and students a basic working understanding of the key areas of media law and ethical regulation likely to affect them in their research, writing and publishing across media platforms. It tries to do this by introducing the basic legal concepts while exploring the ways in which a professional communicator’s work practices can be adapted to withstand legal challenges.

As the publisher’s promo states:

A practical guide for journalists, public relations and marketing professionals, bloggers and social media experts to staying on the right side of the law.

We are all journalists and publishers now: at the touch of a button we can send our words, sounds and images out to the world. No matter whether you’re a traditional journalist, a blogger, a public relations practitioner or a social media editor, everything you publish or broadcast is subject to the law. But which law?

This widely used practical guide to communication law is essential reading for anyone who writes or broadcasts professionally, whether in journalism or strategic communication. It offers a mindful approach to assessing media law risks so practitioners can navigate legal and ethical barriers to publishing in mainstream and social media.

This sixth edition has been substantially revised to reflect recent developments in litigation, and the impact of national security laws and the rising gig economy where graduates might work in the news media, PR, new media start-ups, or as freelancers. It covers defamation, contempt, confidentiality, privacy, trespass, intellectual property, and ethical regulation, as well as the special challenges of commenting on criminal allegations and trials. Recent cases and examples from social media, journalism and public relations are used to illustrate key points and new developments. 

Whether you work in a news room, in public relations or marketing, or blog from home, make sure you have The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law at your side.

‘Whether you’re an MSM editor or reporter, a blogger, a tweeter or a personal brand, this book might save your bacon.’ – Jonathan Holmes, former ABC Media Watch host

‘The leading text book from which most journos learned their law’ – Margaret Simons, associate professor in journalism, Monash University

If you wish to request a copy for course inspection or media review please contact the publisher, Allen & Unwin, who should soon have printed copies available.

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 2018 – the moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

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Filed under citizen journalism, contempt of court, free expression, journalism, journalism education, media ethics, Media freedom, media law, Media regulation, mindful journalism, online education, reflective practice, social media, sub judice