CLOSE

New Zealand news site LawFuel ordered to hand over communication with sources

New Zealand news site LawFuel ordered to hand over communication with sources

John Bowie is the publisher of LawFuel, a law news site based in New Zealand.

Between April and August 2020, LawFuel ran a series of articles detailing allegations of harassment and abuse by Sergey Grishin, a Russian oligarch living in California. Other newspapers, including the Sun, the Times and the Daily Mail also reported on these allegations.

In December 2020, Mr Grishin filed a pre-commencement discovery application against John Bowie before the High Court of New Zealand. Mr Grishin brought the application in order to gather information relating to LawFuel’s communications with a source. In May 2021, the High Court ordered Mr Bowie to hand over all materials relevant to the case. In practical terms, this means he must surrender emails and other correspondence he had with his sources. Mr Grishin’s law firm, Simpson Grierson, was able to secure this order without their client needing to be in the country. Instead, he remained in California.

In short, this decision sets a dangerous precedent for protection of sources and journalistic privilege in New Zealand. It will inevitably have a chilling effect on journalists there covering this story and other stories. The New Zealand Press Club recently wrote to the New Zealand Law Commission, a group that reviews law and make recommendations to the government. They noted the particular danger arising from the decision of the High Court, where claimants who are the subject matter of an international story could apply to the courts in New Zealand through an intermediary and be confident of securing information about the source of the story.

As a result of his reporting, Mr Bowie is now facing a defamation lawsuit.

If you are a journalist or citizen journalist in need of support, please click here.

If you would like to support our work, please click here.

Recent News

Azerbaijan held liable for blocking Radio Free Europe’s websites by ECtHR

The case relates to the blocking of RFE’s websites in 2017, and was one of four separate cases involving website blocking that were considered by the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’). The websites were blocked with immediate effect, pending an application for a court order by the relevant government agency. According to the government, […]

Read

Media Defence Files Intervention at European Court to Protect Anonymity Online

Media Defence has filed a third-party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Koumiotis v Greece to protect anonymity online. The case concerns criminal proceedings against the applicant, the owner and manager of an online blog. The applicant, following a series of posts criticising a businessman, was convicted of slanderous defamation. The […]

Read

Call for Consultants: Independent evaluation of ‘International Network of Internet Freedom Lawyers (INIFL)’ multi-regional project

1. About Media Defence Media Defence’s Vision A world where journalists no longer face legal challenges that threaten their ability to report freely and independently on issues of public interest, allowing citizens to be better informed, able to hold those in power to account. Media Defence’s Mission  To ensure legal protection of journalists and media […]

Read