Media law is not for the faint hearted, particularly when concerning the law courts, but more importantly it does not differentiate between a qualified journalist working for a global publisher or an amateur blogger satisfying their own need to publish views.
Take for instance the case of the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray (62), who describes himself on his website as an author, broadcaster and human rights activist.
Mr Murray has fallen foul of the High Court in Edinburgh over a blog post he penned in 2020 after attending the trial of Scotland’s former First Minister, Alex Salmond when the politician faced 14 charges, mostly of sexual assault, and was acquitted on all counts.
The UK Press Gazette reports Mr Murray was “sentenced to eight months in jail for ‘abhorrent’ contempt of court” for his post that presiding judges deemed capable of potentially disclosing the identities of four complainants in the case despite court orders granting the women anonymity.
In a post to promote a crowdfund that exceeded his target of GBP 60,000, Mr Murray outlined the charges against him and wrote: “The purpose of this operation against free speech is a desperate attempt to keep the lid on the nature of the state conspiracy to fit up Alex Salmond.”
He added: “The persecution of myself is an attempt to intimidate independent figures into not publishing anything about it.”
The journalistic review, Consortium News, also has covered the case here.
But regardless of his theory, it appears the case against him will stick and Mr Murray will pay for his post that flouted journalistic precautions and allowed for jigsaw identification – the ability to identify someone intended to remain anonymous by using information from multiple sources.
The Press Gazette quotes Mr Murray’s lawyer as saying: “If anyone out there thinks that playing with fire in the field of jigsaw identification is a zero-sum game, their views have been disabused by the ruling this court has already made.”
Amateur journalists be warned!