Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

The Ministry and the Media

Here's more on how the Ministry of Defence masterminded the coup that kept the British media quiet on Prince Harry's deployment. Now, says the BBC, "it had "agonised" about whether to take part and other newspaper executives admitted being privately queasy. The corporation said it had had an eleventh hour row with the ministry, when it wanted to explain the pact to viewers, without spelling out where Prince Harry was going or when. "We did a lot of agonising over whether to enter into it," said Fran Unsworth, head of news gathering . "We made our decision on the basis of safety, not on the basis of whether we were supporting the war effort or not. Most of the audience understand the dilemma we were in and thought the decision we took was justified." Like others, she argued that the media regularly agrees to news blackouts in certain situations, to protect soldiers in war zones, kidnap victims and hostages, for example." Read more here.

Meanwhile, one British journalist attacked Matt Drudge over his "outing" of the Prince's Afghanistan posting. "News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis has attacked US website the Drudge Report for revealing the deployment of Prince Harry to Afghanistan, branding the story a "cheap hit". Wallis, one of the key figures to broker the non-reporting agreement struck in December by newspapers and the Ministry of Defence, praised the conduct of British media and suggested that foreign outlets were more careless about the Prince's safety than their British counterparts. "For him [Drudge] to claim an exclusive on that was a cheap hit," Wallis told Sky news. "Any number of newspapers or broadcasters in this country could have claimed that as far back as December. "I also wonder if he would have done the same if it were George Bush's children or Hillary Clinton's child who was risking his life in Afghanistan." Read more here.

But here's another view of Harry's military service and the "keep mum" agreement from Peter Wilby. "Kings and princes used to go into battle at the head of their soldiers, standards flying. Nobody thought it right to hide Henry V or Richard III while they were doing battle with the enemy. But the modern military wants the symbolic benefits of royal leadership without undue risk to the royal personage. In the case of Prince Harry, the Ministry of Defence had its cake and was allowed by the media to eat it as well....The whole thing was a PR stunt, from beginning to end, a more extended version of the politicians' visits which the media also keep quiet about in advance. But the media's self-denying ordinances for politicians last only a day or two. In Harry's case, the public was kept in the dark for more than two months. It was described as "a gentleman's agreement", an appropriately quaint term which recalls the most famous news blackout of all - the affair between Edward VIII and the American divorcee - Wallis Simpson, in 1936."

March 3, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Conrad Black To Report To Prison Today

Conrad Black was to report to the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex, a low security facility in Florida, to begin serving his nearly seven year sentence, after a judge refused to defer it in light of his appeal to the Seventh Circuit. The prison is near Orlando. Lord Black is entitled to during the weekends. He renounced his Canadian citizenship to take a British peerage, and commentators say he may have difficulty returning to Canada after he has served his sentence. He sent in a manuscript to his publisher at the last minute; its subject: apparently the collapse of his media empire and his trial.

March 3, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Update in the Wikileaks Case

The judge in the "Wikileaks" case has dissolved a preliminary injunction he issued last month, and is allowing Wikileaks.org to return to the 'net after he was bombarded legally by a number of folks, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press. His concerns? That he has jurisdiction over the underlying dispute, and that the plaintiffs' request for the injunction is a remedy that is the "least restrictive means to achieve Plaintiffs' goals." More court appearances for everybody are scheduled for mid-May. Onward through the fog.

Read more here in a New York Times article, and here in a CNET article. Here's his ruling.

March 2, 2008 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)