Freedom Of The Press? UK's The Guardian Barred From Reporting On Parliament

from the how-do-you-report-on-being-banned-from-reporting? dept

Over in the UK, the Guardian has apparently been barred from reporting on a certain action in Parliament (Update: read below). But how do you even report on being barred from reporting on a particular subject without reporting on it. Watch the linguistic gymnastics The Guardian goes through:

The Guardian has been prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds which appear to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.

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 only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.

Yet another case of chilling effects in the form of lawyers suing over coverage they don’t like. Of course, we’re not barred from reporting on anything, and checking through some Parliament webpages turns up the following list of questions, including the following:

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.

This certainly implies that The Guardian has been barred due to this original story of how British oil trader Trafigura was offering to pay “historic damages” to 31,000 people injured in the dumping of toxic waste in Africa.

Of course, my guess is that Trafigura and Carter-Ruck are about to learn about The Streisand Effect, and UK politicians are about to get another lesson on why its libel laws need to be fixed. In the meantime, in the absence of all of this, how many people would have heard about this whole Trafigura affair? How many more people are about to become aware of it?

Update: After this story got spread all over the internet (especially on Twitter), it looks like Carter-Ruck backed down. Of course… the end result? Much worse than if they had never tried to gag the newspapers. A lot more people are aware of the story. Why do lawyers still think banning such things will work?

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Companies: carter-ruck, trafigura

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Comments on “Freedom Of The Press? UK's The Guardian Barred From Reporting On Parliament”

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Call me Al says:

I first saw mention of Trafigura on a friend’s facebook status, he was lamenting not having been on Twitter today when the story broke. Since I’ve done some Googling to work out what is going on. It seems the Guardan and BBC have both had recent reports on Trafigura and their “alleged” dumping of toxic waste on an African city in order to save money. The BBC apparently has another such report due this evening.

The Trafigura legal team has gone after the BBC, Times and Guardian, with the Times apparently backing down. The BBC were pretty robust in their response.

Eitherway this is a clear example of the Streisand effect. Its unlikely I would have noticed this story without their attempt to silence a paper(indeed I didn’t see the previous reports from the BBC or Guardian, I read both websites). They’ve managed to top the Twitter listings and these days that is newsworthy in itself to get it talked about in mainstream papers and websites. So now all these papers that might otherwise be gagged can talk about the Guardian being gagged and allow their own readers to follow the trails to see why.

Enricosuarve says:

Damn but that was fast

I was halfway writing an email to you informing you of this and then spotted you’d already beat me anyway!

Either way Babs Streisand has struck again as they have recalled the gagging order obviously noting the amount of publicity they were getting, albeit a little late…

Chalk one up for the good guys methinks ;0)

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Thanks!

> As you say they cannot sue everybody… there
> are simply too many of us.

That’s not even the issue. The issue is jurisdiction (or lack of it). In Britain, the government can gag the media much more freely than in other countries. Here in the US, such a thing would be unheard of and the newspaper would probably defy the gag order just to get the case to court where the government would surely lose.

Before the internet, gagging the UK media was a pretty effective way of shutting down a story in the UK but it’s useless now, as this TechDirt story just proved. Sure they can censor the UK papers but when every citizen in Britain can log onto an American site like TechDirt or CNN or MSNBC, none of whom are subject to British law or jurisdiction and therefore don’t give a flip about British gag orders, it’s a useless tactic that only drives up awareness of that which they’re attempting to censor.

John Doe says:

Re: Re: Coming to a country near you...

Funny how all the anti-Fox people think their favorite news organization is unbiased and saintly. Actually, it isn’t funny at all. All news organizations are extremely biased, even when they “try” not to be. What is it with newspapers picking candidates for an election? How can that possibly be viewed as unbiased?

Also, the actual news on Fox News is as unbiased as any other news program. Notice I didn’t say it is unbiased, but is “as” unbiased as others. It is the opinion segments the libs mistake for news. Funny they don’t seem to make that mistake with CNN or MSNBC whose opinion segments are just as biased but the other way.

Jerry S says:

Re: Re: Coming to a country near you...

From what I’ve seen, Fox’s news coverage is very similar to every one else. The commentators tend to be biased against the rest of the media, but the actual journalists and reporters generally report facts (as journalists should). O’Reilly, Hannity and Beck never claim to be journalists, they claim to commentators, and therefore, they are free to express opinion.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Coming to a country near you...

“Unfortunately, the kind of red-neck morons that watch Fox can’t tell the difference between journalism and commentary (“Glenn Beck said Obama is Kenyian communist muslim terrorist, so it must be true.”)”

And then he….cried…because he *sniff*…just loves *sniff*…his goddam country *sniff*….so MUCH! WWWAAAHHHHH, my country that allows compromise and incorporation of other’s beliefs and cultures isn’t EXACTLY the way I want it! BWWWWAAAAAHHHHHH!

Glen Beck is an absolute disingenous retard and, next to Murdoch, he is objective numero uno once the Helmety Takeover that has been prophesized begins…

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Coming to a country near you...

“You must be some kind of socialist Obama-nut.”

Uh, yeah, if you think that then you haven’t been paying attention to my comments. I’m certainly no Obama supporter. The nice thing about being an independent is that I get to tell both sides why they’re stupid.

Oh, and Glen Beck is still a caricature moron.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Coming to a country near you...

Can’t lead to something similar here. Free press is pretty damn strong on these shores and there has been little indication that Obama is out to suppress anything like rights. Sure he wants to take your money away and subject our grand children to massive bills, but he isn’t trampling on the constitution.

Quick response to the Fox News haters. Yea they lie, so do other news medias. I don’t watch Fox News cause their extreme right wing take makes me sick to my stomach. By that same token, I don’t watch much american news cause their extreme left wing take also gets me sick to my stomach. American TV news SUCKS.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Coming to a country near you...

By that same token, I don’t watch much american news cause their extreme left wing take also gets me sick to my stomach. American TV news SUCKS.

I don’t think you’ve seen much of the world: there really aren’t many leftists in America. We mostly go from moderate right wing to extreme right wing. Of course, the extreme right wingers like to call the moderates “leftists” just because they aren’t extreme enough to please them.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Please please please

….keep in mind that it has been common practice for the past seventy years or so for the upper echelon of power folks to “test drive” actions and policies in the UK and France to gauge public reaction.

I like being called a conspiracy nut, because it’s funny when you get stories that come out like this, with the UK literally attempting to stifle press speech about an OIL INDUSTRY action. So where’s the conspiracy?

Well, The Chairman of the Board for Galena Asset Management, the fund managment subsidiary of Trafigura is none other than Lord Strathclyde, head of the conservative party in the House of Lords.


caz says:

Carter-Ruck and Schillings

Carter-Ruck are not dissimilar to Schillings

In fact, at least three lawyers at Carter-Ruck have come from Schillings, Hanna Basha, Felicity Robinson and Michelle Riondel.

Schillings have attempted to effect a gag order on various websites on the internet to prevent the public from knowing that that there is a clear (electronic) connection between Ark Academies and the Dutroux scandal (about the sexual abuse, torture and murder of children scandal in Belgium in the late 1990’s).

Ark Academies sponsor schools in the UK.

First Schillings letter:

Censored video:


Second Schillings letter:


Ark’s eugenics programme now in place in UK schools:

Anonymous Coward says:

“This certainly implies that The Guardian has been barred due to this original story of how British oil trader Trafigura was offering to pay “historic damages” to 31,000 people injured in the dumping of toxic waste in Africa. “

My guess is that the rich and the powerful have long been benefiting at the expense of the poor and the powerless by doing this sort of thing, censoring it from the public, and then blaming the alleged failures of the poor and the powerless on their own actions and their refusal to do everything that “industrialized” nations tell them to despite the fact that the only reason the rich and the powerful prosper is because they have been doing so at the expense of the poor and the powerless.

Of course, now thanks to the Internet, the truth is more widespread but the one thing that scares me is that it seems people on this blog take this spread of information for granted. You seem to yell “victory” as if this will never go away. Trust me, there are people working very hard to restrict the free flow of information and if we take such free flow for granted it will be controlled by evil people. Don’t take it for granted, any government officials who even attempted to censor this information should lose their jobs. We should not tolerate any attempts whatsoever at censoring information without consequence to those trying to censor it because if these people aren’t punished they have little to lose by searching for ways and trying new things to censor information.

Furthermore, we should be proactive in taking back the FCC/corporate controlled airwaves and also giving anyone permission to either build new cable infrastructure or to use the existing cable/telco infrastructure to compete with the status quo and offer Internet service and cable television with a wider variety of channels.

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