Saturday, 14 November 2009

Media Law. Investigative Journalism.

In thursday's lecture we discovered what 'investigative journalism' is.
  • The Journalist initiates the story.
  • It does not just follow the news agenda of that time. 
  • It does not really matter what is in the news. If there is something to investiagate then you do it.
- John Sweeney - Investigtive journalist, investigated a series of cot deaths where the mothers had been wrongly improsioned. He helped Sally Clark, Angela Cannings and Donna Anthony to be cleared.
He also did a lot of investigations into Scientology.

Find out more about Sweeney's investigative journalism:

- Emile Zola - known as the 'The father of investigative journalism' was one of the first to leave the 'agenda' and initiate his own journalism.

Well known for the 'Dreyfus Affair', he wrote 'J'Accuse!' which he published on the front page of the Paris Daily, accusing the French Army of a miscarriage of justice, after they wrongfully convicted Alfred Dreyfus, an artillary captain, of espionage and sentenced him to life on Devil's Island, French Guiana.
(Want to know more about Emile Zola go to:

Watergate - President Richard Nixon was suspected to have been responsible for having the Democratic National Committee Headquarters broken into and then conspired to cover it up. It was investigated by two journalists from the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, assisted by Deep Throat, later revealed to be Mark Felt, Associate Director of the FBI who started helping Woodward and Bernstein in 1972.

"What did the President know and when did he know it?"

Woodward and Bernstein effectively brought down the President of the United States, one of the most powerful men in the world.
(SEE for everything you would ever want to know about Watergate!)

When there is an absense of malice =  entitlement to common law qualified privilege


!!! NEVER investigate or go off the agenda where you are personally involved! A BIG NO NO!!!

Public Interest

If you are exposing:
- a danger to protect or inform the public.
- a health and safety issue
-  a gross intention to mislead public/society

Justice Eady said "its the rock on which we stand" when talking about working within Public Interest.

When investigating remember: someone else's rubbish may be your treasure.
It is not illegal to go through people's dustbins...a less favoured approach but one that has helped in the discovery of incriminating evidence.

Benjamin Pell (aka 'Benji the Binman') - made it his job to search the bins of the rich and famous looking for something incriminating to sell to the media.
(for more see:

Mazher Mahmood - 'The fake Sheik' - Undercover reporter for the News of the World.

Regulations for 'subterfuge' state:
- There must be some prior indication or degree of proof that the 'abuse' is taking place or the 'accusation' is true.
- Trawling is not allowed.
- There must be prior permission from OFCOM or BBC etc...
- The tip off must have come from a reliable source and there must be a reason for believing it to be true.

THE  'great' evidence gap!
Libel is civil law - within civil law you only need to show the balance of probability.
Therefore a newspaper can state that it thinks a group of men who were 'let off' murder charges are in fact the murderers because it would be libel, and if the probability is that they were 'most likely' the murderers then the newspaper will win.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent work - I like the way you add links to what I do in the lecture... add links and examples. It means people reading your blog get my lecture and your additional work on it = very useful therefore get traffic, thus virtuous circle...