British press banned from reporting Parliament by private firm

Most of the UK press are avoiding this story for obvious reasons, so kudos to Alex Massie and the Spectator for breaking rank:

This time, perhaps even the lawyers have gone too far. It's hard to recall, even in the long history of appalling gagging orders, a more disgraceful injunction than this:

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.

Remarkable, even by the appalling standards of our libel laws and addled judiciary. This appears to be the question in, er, question:

From, "Questions for Oral or Written Answer beginning on Tuesday 13 October 2009â³



N 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.

And this is a report on how the oil company Trafigura tried to cover up pollution in Africa.

This country's libel laws have been a disgrace for years and one can only hope that egregious abuses of an already abusive system persuades folk that, dash it, something must be done.

The Twitterati are going absolutely apeshit over the case, and @jackofkent and @dontgetfooled deserve credit for being among the first to raise the alarm and uncover the offending documents. Trending topics include #guardiangag, #gagCarterRuck, and #Trafigura. A demonstration against press censorship and anti-democratic legal action is planned for Thursday.

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The Streisand Effect. Gotta love it.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 13 Oct 2009 #permalink