Belfast Telegraph

Readers' Editor: Read all about it as papers make small screen debut

By Paul Connolly

With iPads and similar tablet devices becoming more ubiquitous by the day, the media industry has been exploring their potential as a new method of delivering content to customers.

International publications piled in first, followed by national titles. The Belfast Telegraph will shortly become one of the first regional papers with an iPad app. An iPhone app will follow shortly.

Strictly speaking, app is short for application software - any computer programme that helps users perform tasks. In popular terms, however, the term has come to mean third-party programmes activated via smartphones and tablet (mini-laptop) computers.

The idea with tablet apps is that readers have newspapers delivered in a super-convenient, print-like format that still retains all the flexibility and urgency of digital and which can include rich content like video, audio and picture galleries.

The global debate on media apps is, as always, an interesting mixture of hype, hope and doom-mongering. From a Readers' Editor viewpoint, however, apps are another welcome way for readers to engage with the paper at the touch of a finger. And that can only be a force for good.

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Another challenging week for media freedom in the UK.

And you can be sure if it's happening across the water, there's a good chance it'll be coming soon to a high court near you.

I'm talking about the rise of court injunctions, particularly, but not exclusively, in the 'privacy' arena.

This week saw the dawning of a new threat - the 'interim libel injunction', as it is known in legal circles. Effectively, this is a gagging order banning the identification of parties to libel cases.

For more than 100 years, the UK courts have set themselves against 'prior restraint' - in other words, that judges were strongly predisposed not to set down interim gagging orders ahead of libel court trials.

In effect, two principles reigned: the principle of open justice and the belief that the integrity of the legal process would trump all else.

The UK's leading media law judge, Mr Justice Tugendhat, has, however, made further inroads into this freedom with two judgments, the effect of which is that the plaintiffs can only be identified by initials (one is now known as ZAM v CFW -amp; TFW). The judgments were difficult cases, however, the upshot is further inroads into a core principle.

Hopefully, the Neuberger review of injunctions, expected shortly, will strike the right balance. Otherwise, the UK's reputation as a haven of restrictions on freedom of expression will surely grow.

BTreaderseditor@gmail.com

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