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What is a media lawyer?
A media lawyer is a lawyer with expertise in the use of information and how that can be used and exploited lawfully. So that includes liable, breach of confidence, privacy, and these days, data protection.
Why would I need a media lawyer?
I have had many clients say to me 'Why would I need a media lawyer? Isn't that just to cover something up? Or I'm trying to hide something?' To which I would say, absolutely not. The law is not there to help people cover things up, but what the law can do is help you be fairly represented and make sure that journalists are going to tell your story in a way which is accurate and reflects the truth.
An example of a situation you've dealt with?
I had a client who had received an email from a journalist, a fairly typical email asking 20 questions. There was some semblance of truth in some of them but probably in about half, the journalist had got two and two and was making seven and there were some fairly basic factual errors, and we helped that client respond to that and work out how to explain to the journalist what they had got wrong and what the legal risks were in publishing things that were not reliable.
Was the client pleased with the outcome?
I think often clients expect, rightfully, that they will face criticism. That's the way of the world and the law is not going to stop fair criticism. What the client was pleased about was that they were only dealing with issues that were true and they were not being wrongly criticised for things which were false.
Any advice to those who might need guidance?
I would always say to clients, contact us at the point when you see it coming over the horizon. We often do get called in at literally the 11th hour and that's fine, and we can still play a role then. But the greatest opportunity is when you know that you might be facing some difficult times and some challenging press criticism, get us in early.
Preventing media coverage in the first place
One of the times that we're most commonly called in is when somebody has been approached by a journalist to be asked for a comment, and we often work alongside in-house or external PR communications teams and help to formulate that response. It's not just about getting an apology after everything's gone wrong, in fact the best work that we do is helping to ensure that the inaccuracies don't appear in the first place.
Why an injunction can be a good thing
If there's a threat of some private information being published, either in the media or these days being dumped online or on a website somewhere, an injunction can help prevent that information being disseminated to millions of people.