Man loses case against newspapers

 

A High Court judge has dismissed claims that a number of national newspapers breached the terms of injunctions obtained by a Dublin City University student arising out of postings accompanying an internet video clip which he says defamed him.

The student earlier in the week obtained temporary injunctions against a number of internet firms, including Facebook and Google, arising out of the broadcast of the video clip, accompanying text and a Facebook profile alleging he was guilty of taxi-fare evasion.

The student, who the court found was innocent of the allegations as he was in Japan studying at the time of taxi incident, also argued that six newspapers breached the terms of those injunctions by identifying them in subsequent court reports of his action.

He also sought orders preventing the newspapers from identifying him in any further reporting of his case. The newspapers opposed his application, denied there was any breach and argued the injunctions did not apply to them.

Today at the High Court, Mr Justice Michael Peart dismissed the student's applications against the newspapers The Irish Times, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Irish Examiner, and Irish Daily Star newspapers. The Sunday Times had previously been released from the proceedings.

The judge said the terms of the injunction he had previously granted to the man were not directed at the newspapers, and their reporting of the case had not breached orders he made on January 11th last.

He was completely satisfied that newspapers "were and are entitled to name" the student in their reporting of the proceedings. There was no basis on which it could be said the student was entitled to the reliefs sought, the judge found.

The judge also held that, at no time, did the man make an application that his name should not be disclosed in any reporting of his proceedings.

If he felt he had been defamed in any reports, the judge added, he could seek redress in the ordinary way. The issue of costs was adjourned to a date next month.

However, it was indicated to the court that all sides intended to apply for their costs in the action.

Last week, the student sought orders prohibiting six national newspapers from identifying him in relation to the court proceedings and from publishing anything which is defamatory of him.

He claimed the injunctions obtained prohibited third parties with knowledge of it from publishing material, and that this covers the newspapers. He claimed his case could be reported but that he could not be identified.

His lawyers argued he was entitled under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights to have his right to privacy and his good nam protected and vindicated by the court. In order to so, the court must provide him with an effective remedy which, in this case, was a right to anonymity.

No public interest was served by the newspapers naming him and he was entitled to a right to privacy given that he was in no way responsible for the events that led to his public identification, it was claimed.

The newspapers argued they were not covered by the injunctions obtained by the individual in question. The intended targets of the injunctions, they claimed, were ordinary internet users and service providers who might repeat or post fresh material that was defamatory of the student.

The newspaper’s only role, it was argued, was to report in a fair and proper manner proceedings which were held in public and no reporting restrictions were either applied or granted.

The papers also submitted that they were not obliged not to name the student given that he named himself in the proceedings which are required under the Constitution to be held in public.

It was further submitted that any person, no matter how innocent they are in relation to matters complained of, must be taken to know that once they go to court to protect their good name they can be identified publicly, and becoming more widely known than had they chosen to do nothing about the situation.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Peart said the student's action was not a case “where the facts were so exceptional that it would allow the court not to follow the law as it has been pronounced in the highest court in the country.”