Journalists urged to use new edition of McNae’s to challenge court decisions on reporting restrictions

Journalists, lawyers and educators came together to celebrate the launch of the 27th edition of McNae's Essential Law for Journalists.

Journalists were encouraged to use McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists as a guide to challenging court decisions on reporting restrictions, at the launch of the 27th edition of the “bible for journalists” last night.

Around 100 journalists, lawyers and educators came together to mark the launch of the new edition of McNae’s at an NCTJ reception at Doughty Street Chambers in London.

Attendees to the event, which was also supported by McNae’s publishers Oxford University Press, heard from co-authors Sian Harrison and Gill Phillips, with keynote speeches from barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC and Mr Justice Nicklin, chair of the Judiciary’s recently established Transparency & Open Justice Board.

Mr Justice Nicklin paid tribute to the work of the co-authors, and the NCTJ for delivering “essential legal training” to journalists. He said that knowing the relevant law, using McNae’s as a guide, is essential to effectively challenging decisions on restrictions in court.

He said: “Challenges are always welcome. In the area of reporting restrictions and anonymity orders, there is an ever-present risk that such orders are made without the court having the benefit of a proper argument.

“The dynamic is frequently that the party making the application is the only one making substantive submissions.

“It frequently falls to representatives of the media to make any arguments against the making of an order.

“Make sure you’ve got your McNae’s – suitably marked up – to guide your submissions.”

The new edition has been updated and includes revised chapters on regulatory codes, updates to legislation and rules affecting court reporting, as well as new case studies and a new online chapter on SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participations).

Co-author Sian Harrison said at a time when disinformation is rife and AI is on the rise, it is more important than ever to have the highest standards in the industry.

She said: “We really need to make the distinction between us, as professional journalists, and people publishing content on social media which is completely unverified.”

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, praised the legacy of McNae’s in helping journalists to understand the complex concepts of media law and spoke about the importance of protecting journalists as they report on important stories.

She spoke about the worrying rise in SLAPPs, which are legal claims brought by corporations and powerful individuals to suppress reporting and praised the authors for featuring a section of SLAPPs in the book.

She said: “Many of us will know that there are journalists being jailed – and killed – for treading on powerful toes. It is simply wrong. I’m proud of our great history supporting journalists and journalism in the UK and overseas.”

The authors thanked the lawyers who helped with the latest edition, as well as publishers Oxford University Press and the NCTJ.

Sian is the law editor of PA Media and completed her NCTJ training at Cardiff University. She is an experienced journalist and court reporter and has been based in the Royal Courts of Justice since 2010.

Gill is the former director of editorial legal services for The Guardian, and previously worked for the legal teams of the BBC and Times Newspapers. This is the first edition of McNae’s Gill has worked on, having succeeded previous co-author Mark Hanna.

Caoilfhionn is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and regularly advises and acts for newspapers and broadcasters on journalistic access to the courts and public interest reporting.

Mr Justice Nicklin was appointed as a High Court Judge in 2017 and was previously in charge of the Media and Communications list.

This indispensable handbook has been journalism’s foremost authority on media law since its inception in 1954.

You can purchase the 27th edition of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists here for the discounted price of £27.99 (RRP £29.99)

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