Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Topidi on Words That Hurt: Normative and Institutional Considerations in the Regulation of Hate Speech in Europe @ECMIFlensburg

Kyriadi Topidi, European Centre for Minority Issues; Institute of Law and Religion, Faculty of Law, has published Words that Hurt (1): Normative and Institutional Considerations in the Regulation of Hate Speech in Europe as ECMI Working Paper n.118. Here is the abstract.

Europe is experiencing at present intense dilemmas in regulating hate speech and online harassment. Free speech exercise can be offensive and even contribute to a climate of prejudice and discrimination against minorities. Often, the media exacerbate the tendency by reporting negatively about minorities. The first working paper on this topic engages with the normative dimensions of the balance between the need to control and limit incitement to violence in reconciliation with the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Three distinct aspects of hate speech are covered: the first relates to the role of freedom of expression as a tool of inclusiveness. With the limits of liberal tolerance being unclear, just like the definition of hate speech itself, legal actors and systems are torn between criminalising the speaker’s motive alone or in conjunction with the effects of the speech. A survey of recent related European Court of Human Rights case-law demonstrates these ambiguities. The second aspect covered looks at the challenges of the regulation of the freedom of expression in the digital age, with emphasis of the online dimensions of the phenomenon from a legal perspective. The final aspect of the paper proposes an actor-based analysis of hate speech, as it emerges from the current regulatory frameworks applied. This section deals not only with the role of the State but also with that of equality bodies, political parties and private businesses in providing more efficient networks of protection of minorities from such violent expressions of hatred.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

December 20, 2019 | Permalink

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Losing the News: A New Publication from PEN America @PENAmerica

A new publication from PEN America: Losing the News: The Decimation of Local Journalism and the Search for Solutions.

From the introduction:


The decimation of local news in recent years—specifically the hollowing-out of newspapers and
other vital reporting outlets at the city, state, and regional level—represents a crisis for American democracy. When ad revenue dries up, consolidation and
cost cutting gut newsrooms, beats remain uncovered, and corruption goes uninvestigated, the American
populace lacks vital information about their lives and their communities. A vibrant, responsive democracy
requires enlightened citizens, and without forceful local reporting they are kept in the dark.
At a time when political polarization is increasing and fraudulent news is spreading, a shared factbased discourse on the issues that most directly
affect us is both more essential and more elusive than ever. Without reliable information on how tax dollars
are spent, how federal policy affects local communities, and whether local elected officials are meeting
constituent needs, how can we expect citizens to make informed choices about who should govern?
The consequences of imperiled local news ecosystems for U.S. political and civic life have already
been dramatic, and unless we take concerted action, they will only get worse. Building on the work
of experts in journalism and media, PEN America has prepared this report to examine how the local
news crisis affects communities and democracy, and to propose ways to address it. As an organization
dedicated to both the celebration and defense of free expression, we recognize that the press plays
a vital role in making people’s voices heard, and in enabling not just their right to speak, but their right
to know. 
The report will begin by exploring why local journalism matters. As Michigan web publisher Khalil Hachem explained to PEN America: “The essence of local news
is, first, providing information for people to understand what’s going on, information that affects their lives. Second, holding public officials accountable. And
third, making sure that democracy is healthy.”
Local journalists serve as a voice of the people, using the megaphone of the press to air their neighbors’ frustrations, concerns, and needs—and to bring regional
or national attention to pressing local issues. Local journalism also acts as a watchdog for corporate and
government accountability and a building block of social cohesion.


(Footnotes omitted).



December 19, 2019 | Permalink

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Call for Proposals from Senior Vising Research Scholars: Knight First Amendment Institute @knightcolumbia

From the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University


The Knight Institute welcomes proposals on a rolling basis from scholars interested in collaborating with the Institute on substantial projects relating to the Institute’s mandate. 

The Institute’s Senior Visiting Research Scholar (“Visiting Scholar”) program allows leading scholars and thinkers from a range of disciplines—including law, journalism, and computer science—an opportunity to spend a semester or year at the Institute focusing on projects that engage with critical questions relating to the freedoms of speech and the press in the digital age. Visiting Scholars’ projects may take a variety of forms, including commissioning and editing essays or scholarly articles around a common theme; undertaking empirical research; conceptualizing and organizing public events; convening scholars, policymakers, or others; or developing new frameworks for the Institute’s litigation, research, and public education efforts. Visiting Scholars also participate in the Institute’s decision-making about its litigation, research, and public education programs and help connect the Institute with scholarly and other communities of relevance to the Institute’s work.

The projects undertaken by past Visiting Scholars are indicative of the kinds of projects that the Institute hopes and expects to sponsor in the future. Projects that the Institute’s Visiting Scholars have undertaken in the past include:

  • A series of commissioned essays focused on “emerging threats” to the system of free expression, published on the Institute’s website and, later this year, in a collection by Columbia University Press.
  • A symposium (co-hosted with the Columbia Law Review) on “The First Amendment in an Age of Inequality.”
  • A series of commissioned essays on the future of the First Amendment, and a closed convening of scholars and technologists focused on the same topic.
  • A symposium on “Data and Democracy.”

Visiting Scholars receive a stipend commensurate with their experience and the scope of their research project.


The Knight Institute's Senior Visiting Scholars are distinguished scholars and leaders in their fields, with recognized expertise in disciplines or subject areas relevant to the Institute's mandate and work.

Individuals interested in being considered should submit a C.V. and brief proposal (no more than two pages) to Katy Glenn Bass, the Institute’s Research Director, at Proposals should describe the proposed project, explain how the project relates to the Institute’s mandate and work, and explain what resources the Institute would have to provide in order to ensure the project’s success. Some applicants may want to submit a proposed timeline. In selecting Visiting Scholars, the Institute will give consideration to the strength of applicants’ past and present work, to their capacity to create and deliver projects that advance the Institute’s current programmatic priorities (described here), and to the potential for their research or scholarship to inform the Institute’s future work.

Proposals may be submitted at any point in the calendar year. The Institute considers applications as they are submitted, with the assistance of an advisory committee that includes former Visiting Scholars as well as faculty from Columbia’s Law and Journalism Schools.



December 18, 2019 | Permalink

Wednesday, December 11, 2019



The Law and Policy Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) seeks nominations for the 2019 Harry W. Stonecipher Award for Distinguished Research on Media Law and Policy.

The award honors the legacy of Harry W. Stonecipher, who died in 2004. Stonecipher was an acclaimed and influential First Amendment educator. He nurtured a number of distinguished media law scholars during his 15-year career at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, beginning in 1969.

The Stonecipher Award for Distinguished Research on Media Law and Policy is open to all journalism, First Amendment and communication scholars within and outside AEJMC. The award will be bestowed on research that most broadly covers freedom of expression as a whole, not just journalism.

The award is not limited to research that centers on media-specific issues. It can include First Amendment speech and press issues more broadly. The successful nomination also might be global in scope, rather than U.S.-centric, given that media law and policy as a research topic is inextricably intertwined with the rest of the world in the 21st century.

Preference will be given to research with a strong theoretical component that demonstrates the potential to have a lasting influence on freedom of expression scholarship. All methodologies — empirical, qualitative, historical, etc. — are welcome. Nominations may be for monographs, peer-reviewed journal articles, law review articles or book chapters (but not entire books). Self-nominations are welcome, one per author.

In order to be considered for the award, the research must have been published between Jan. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2019.

Nominations should be sent to Dean Smith at High Point University via e-mail — — by Feb. 3, 2020. Please include STONECIPHER in the subject line. The winner will be announced ahead of the AEJMC’s national convention in August in San Francisco, and the award will be presented there.

December 11, 2019 | Permalink

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Scottish Parliament To Consider Draft Bill On Defamation

The Scottish Parliament is set to consider a draft Defamation bill, the Defamation and Malicious Publication (Scotland) Bill. The drafters intend to codify the treatment of defamation, which is now "spread across several statutes and areas of common law," according to Community safety minister Ash Denham.

Professor Gavin Sutter of Queen Mary University, London, has written an analysis of the bill.  He writes in part that while the the legislation is "fairly comprehensive" and "provides useful clarification of the law," including a good definition of what defamation actually is, he is not a fan of what constitutes immunization of online service providers from liabiity. " This is an area of law which has long been difficult and a bone of contention. No-one, of course, wishes to make life extremely difficult for online hosts or to cause a chill on freedom
of expression via an environment in which distributors, especially online, become over-cautious. The approach taken in the draft bill is, however, unnecessarily complicated. England and Wales dealt with this by providing that persons who are not an author, editor or publisher may only be subject to legal proceedings where the source of the defamatory comment cannot be identified, such that the claimant would otherwise be denied justice (see Section 10 of the Defamation Act 2013)."

He also is in favor of the incorporation of the Reynolds Privilege (see Reynolds v. Times Newspapers). 

Professor Sutter notes that he wrote his essay as a response to an informal consultation on the Bill's Working Draft. See also here for more on the informal consultation and here for more on the introduction of the draft bill.


December 3, 2019 | Permalink