As I was about to switch the laptop off last night, a story was breaking about how the Guardian had been gagged from reporting Parliament. Not something that had been said in Parliament - but a question that had been put down and is due to be answered later this week.
The full Guardian story is here, but the amazing paragraph is:
“Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.
The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.”
The injunction was obtained by Carter-Ruck, a firm which many readers of Private Eye will be familiar with for their similarly restrictive injunctions obtained on behalf of clients.
Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.
The question pertains to this report - which apparently Carter Ruck are now trying to supress. Get it while it’s hot! Linky. It discusses how the oil company Trafigura tried to cover up pollution in Africa.
Quite how it can be in the public interest to stop a national newspaper discussing Parliament is beyond me. Particularly when the subject of the entirely justified question is the illegal dumping of toxic waste. This goes far beyond paparazzi intrustion of celebrities or gossip mongering, this is an issue which is absolutely in the global public interest to have out in the open.
There can be no doubt now that our libel laws need changing - and quickly. The interesting dimension about this case is the online element - the more tweets, blogs and social media messages about the case, the harder it is to argue the material is not already in the public domain - a significant aspect of the court’s deliberations when considering a gagging injunction.
I hope this blog adds to the weight upon the court to release the Guardian - and I hope that the other media outlets see fit to report the gagging as soon as possible. It is a travesty that in the Today programme headlines the story was not even aluded to.
Who gives a carter-fuck? This is our democracy and it isnt anyones to gag.
Tags: cater-ruck, gagging order, guardian
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