Law

Guardian Gagged from Reporting Parliament (And to hell with the Bill of Rights)

This is a cross post from Nick Cohen

The Guardian says this morning that it has been “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.”  Guido points to this question on the Commons order paper and wonders if it is source to the trouble

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.

Surely it can’t be. For what English judge would dare issue an order banning the reporting of a legitimate question by an elected representative?

UPDATE

Index on Censorship reports:

It cannot be overstated how utterly contrary to democracy this development is. Representative democracy depends on the concept that parliamentarians can speak without fear, and the public can listen to and read what they say, whether sitting in the gallery or through print, broadcast and online media. Democracy, perhaps even more so than justice, must not just be practised: it must be seen to be practised.

That a judge should glibly overturn this concept, even temporarily, puts us truly in GUBU territory. This is, to quote the late Conor Cruise O’Brien, grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented.

The Guardian newspaper goes to court today in an effort to overturn this travesty. Anyone who believes in a free press, free expression and democracy must support their efforts.

UPDATE 2

Great news from the Guardian:

The existence of a previously-secret injunction against the media by oiltraders Trafigura can now be revealed.

Within the last hour, Trafigura’s lawyers Carter-Ruck, abandoned an attempt to prevent the Guardian from reporting proceedings in parliament which revealed its existence.

Labour MP Paul Farrelly put down a question yesterday to the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw. It asked about the injunction obtained by “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 Guardian was due to appear at the High Court at 2pm to challenge Carter-Ruck’s behaviour, when the firm dropped its claim that to report parliament would be a contempt of court.


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