law for journalists

A sound knowledge of the law is essential to avoid legal problems. But this course also looks at how you can work within the law to make the most of every story you cover. It includes all you need to know about journalists’ legal rights, responsibilities and restrictions whether you are reporting online, in print, or in audio and video.

This highly practical course will be taught on our online platform over five consecutive weeks using real-life examples, quizzes and reporting scenario exercises. It includes one face-to-face online session per week in which you will review and discuss legal topics and issues; plus access to a chat platform to ask questions.

The course is suitable for editorial staff and freelancers at all levels, from newcomers to experienced journalists who want to brush up on their legal knowledge.

What does the course cover?

Week one: How libel law affects journalists

  • What is libel?
  • Who can sue you? And how much could it cost?
  • Reputation and the risk of causing serious harm
  • Common libel danger areas and how to avoid them

Week two: What you can and cannot report: the main defences to libel

  • The challenges of arguing a truth defence
  • Avoiding libel in reviews and opinion pieces
  • Your legal rights to report on matters of public interest
  • Libel risks in online comments
  • The dangers of apologies

Week three: Contempt law and court reporting restrictions

  • How contempt law affects journalists on all platforms
  • How to avoid creating a risk of prejudice after an arrest
  • Reporting restrictions on cases involving vulnerable people in court
  • Tips for reporting safely on legal stories

Week four: Accessing and using material

  • What the law says about using other people’s material
  • Copyright dangers in using content from social media
  • Is it safe? Defences to breach of copyright
  • Using the Freedom of Information Act to access info from public bodies

Week five: The law relating to privacy and confidentiality

  • How the law of breach of confidence affects your reporting
  • Privacy law and the public interest
  • Reporting on people in the public eye
  • What the editorial codes say about privacy and secret recording

Getting there

This course will be taught on our online platform over five consecutive weeks. It includes one face-to-face online session per week in which to review and discuss legal topics and issues; plus access to a chat platform to ask individual questions.


About David Mascord

David Mascord is an editorial training consultant and freelance journalist with more than 25 years' experience of teaching media law for journalists. He is also a part-time lecturer in media law at Bournemouth University, teaching on undergraduate and postgraduate multimedia journalism degrees and NCTJ media law courses. David contributed a chapter on media law and ethics to the textbook Writing Feature Articles, published by Routledge in 2019.