Firstly readers, sincere apologies for the extended absence (again). One should always make time to write, if one calls themselves a writer. Let’s get on with it.
I’ve been trained in journalism, and that sometimes makes me happy and it sometimes makes me annoyed. It’s also strengthened certain innate traits of mine: an inquiring mind, a nose for a story and a penchant for juicy media law cases. My last point is proving to be a pertinent one, with the Oscar Pistorius case in South Africa and the Lord McAlpine drama making Twitter a minefield for media law catastrophes.
*Sidenote: South Africa does not do trial by jury, contempt in this case would be pretty damn irrelevant*
Whether it’s tweets that come scarily close to defamation, the breaking of anonymity orders or downright violations of contempt of court, the justice system is failing to catch up with new media, and the newspaper industry is yet to find a social media proof answer to libel . With the world becoming more connected, is it time to start taking the teaching of media law more seriously?
I think so. If you asked any number of people whether they knew it was illegal to name the alleged victim of a sexual assault, most of them would probably say no. Ask them if they knew the difference between libel and slander, the number would probably still be quite low.
It’s important to train people in the basics of law and that seems to be lacking – smooshing it with sex education and calling it ‘citizenship’ or ‘PSHE’ just doesn’t cut it. The UK may not have a written constitution, but we do have rights and responsibilities. It’s important to instill this into our youngsters and to remind them to use social media sensibly. After all, once you tweet, it’s permanent. This does not only apply to children – it extends to adults too. You won’t want your would be employer typing your name into a search engine and seeing libellous tweets next to your twitter handle now would you?
Broadcast Belle Fact: Ignorantia Juris Non Excusat is a term in law that means ‘ignorance of the law is not an excuse’. So even if you didn’t know spitting in somebody’s face was common assault, you can still get done for it.