Super-injunctions make an unwelcome appearance

One could be excused for feeling utterly confused by a court story in the Weekend Herald the Saturday before last, but none of the blame lies with the publication or its reporter.

It was bewildering because it related to an attempt to apply a total ban on publication of any details of the case to which it related. And it extended to reporting that the injunction against publication had even been sought.

That, in my book, is called a super-injunction. That is also how the Herald described it.

A super-injunction is an interim injunction which not only restrains publication of information which concerns the applicant and is said to be confidential or private, but also stops publicising or informing others of the existence of the order and the proceedings. That is the ‘super’ element.

Such an injunction was sought after Herald senior journalist Kim Knight contacted “a New Zealand institution” in relation to a story she was pursuing. The Weekend Herald said the plaintiffs were “alleging it [the Herald] was about to publish potentially defamatory allegations” about an overseas individual.

The Herald did not reveal the name of that individual for two reasons: First because it was covered by the application for an injunction and, secondly, because the individual alleging potential defamation had not even been named in court documents made available to Herald publisher NZME. The paper says it does not know his name, calling him a “mystery man”. Continue reading “Super-injunctions make an unwelcome appearance”

Media regulation: Time to shut up and get on with it.

A decade ago this month, the Law Commission produced a fit-for-purpose blueprint for  regulation of New Zealand news media by a single body. The News Media Standards Authority did not happen and today we are no closer to changing oversight that is well past its use-by date.

The commission’s recommendations were set out in a report titled The News Media Meets ‘New Media’: Rights, responsibilities, and regulation in the digital age, produced by a team led by eminent media law expert Professor John Burrows.

The foreword to the report stated it was about how the law should respond to a challenge that had been articulated by then Chief Government Scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman. In an address on the impact of technology on adolescents, Sir Peter had expressed the view that the internet and digital technology have brought about the most profound change in how humans communicate since our species first acquired speech.

One might have thought that his perspective, and the report’s call for fundamental changes to media regulation, would have been an urgent wake-up call. Continue reading “Media regulation: Time to shut up and get on with it.”

Media employees’ right to voice personal opinions

The BBC’s suspension of Gary Lineker over a social media comment raises a question that is wider than the shambles it created: Do people in the media have a right to voice a personal opinion?

Last Tuesday Lineker, the BBC’s highest paid star and presenter of Match of the Day, posted a tweet about the UK Conservative government’s plan to stop refugees crossing the English Channel. He described it as “an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.”

By Friday an extraordinary meltdown had occurred, with the corporation announcing Lineker would “step back” from Match of the Day. In plain English, the director-general Tim Davie had suspended him because ‘a red line has been crossed’ on BBC neutrality. Several colleagues walked out in support of the former professional footballer. There was no Match of the Day last weekend and football coverage on the BBC was reduced to a pallid 20-minute substitute.

The Times reported Davie taking the moral high ground on Friday: “(as) editor in chief of the BBC, I think one of our founding principles is impartiality and that’s what I’m delivering on.” However, over the weekend, support within the corporation rank-and-file seemed to move toward Lineker. Davie, who had been in Washington, flew back to London for crisis meetings to head off what was rapidly becoming an internal revolt. Continue reading “Media employees’ right to voice personal opinions”

Free speech at its best stirring people to anger

I feel like I am about to walk in no-man’s-land on the Eastern Front in Ukraine, knowing that both sides have planted minefields.

The anxiety is due to this week’s topic, in which I endeavour to discuss transgender and politicians who think journalists are something nasty on their shoe. I just know that what I am about to say will annoy one group or the other, or possibly both.

The transgender matter arises from a Broadcasting Standards Authority decision over an interview RNZ’s Kim Hill had with British academic Dr Kathleen Stock, an outspoken critic of gender transition.

The politicians with what look like excremental views on journalists are probably too great to number but two come to mind: Auckland mayor Wayne Brown and Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

How do these disparate topics come together in a Tuesday Commentary? Both involve a clash of rights. Continue reading “Free speech at its best stirring people to anger”