#jeecamp part 2; the breakout group and law, ethics and regulation.

21May10

There will never be a shortage of discussion when you bundle 10 or so journalists from various different walks of … journalistic life…. and ask them to talk about law.

Well, after they’ve introduced themselves and bumped over the initial awkward stage.

Apologies in advance for a lack of names and businesses, but, I’m focusing on topic and issue of debate here.

An issue that was raised early and consistently throughout the discussion was the idea of how the threat of libel, contempt of court and other restrictive measures effected thought-process and news selection in the newsroom.

Is the quality, investigative nature and bravery surrounding journalism being deflated, because of a fearsome economic climate and further fear of capital demolition from lawsuits?

The idea of “libel hanging over you” is definitely an issue for all practicing journalists, but the idea that the increase in circulation that arises from the massive publicity boost of a controversial case seems to suggest that the governing bodies have it all wrong.

Libel law “does more to damage freedom of information than it does to protect people”.

However, people with power or money have the ability to protect themselves, and does this mean that smaller organisations fall behind; there are obvious vested interests.

And then, when you’re talking about freedom of information, you fall into the muddy water that is Facebook.

There were issues raised about whether or not Facebook can infringe on peoples privacy.

Third parties can utter slander on Facebook, but if it was printed, it would be libellous.

So, does openly using Facebook mean that you have no right to retain your privacy, since your information is already on show?

This blends into the idea of Contempt of Court, and amongst various shaky examples, the idea that a simple google search can unveil infinite information about someone who is being tried, and for a juror, that massive availability of information surely means that you cannot fairly fulfil your duties?

Facebook and contempt of court are both separately and together very fuzzy grey area.

Like, thick fog.

Many journalists don’t even know (or at least don’t practice) the idea that a case is active as soon as someone is arrested, not when it goes to court.

Shocking.

The next area of discussion focused around the bodies; the NUJ and the PCC.

The general consensus was that the Press Complaints Commission ‘mediates’ but doesn’t ‘regulate’.

Being made a fool of, as a newspaper or news organisation, is still embarrassing, and more so than it used to be, but most of the high-end of the publishing industry lives often enough outside the law of the PCC.

The NUJ on the other hand was a more constructive issue of discussion.

Should they offer formal legal advice, and should they tackle the issue of protection of ISP?

Legal advice does come from fellow journalists through the process of blogging your journalism experiences. But is it enough?

Bloggers, and our group, admitted that when someone came sniffing at them about a story they weren’t happy about, it was very intimidating. More often than not, you are forced to sound a public retreat whether or not you feel you are spouting libel.

And, I think, in one of the most rambling and disjointed ways ever, that is the discussion about Law, Ethics and Regulation.

Thank you, and goodnight.

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One Response to “#jeecamp part 2; the breakout group and law, ethics and regulation.”


  1. 1 #JEEcamp: What does the election result mean for publishers and start-ups? | Journalism.co.uk Editors' Blog

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