Tag Archive for 'Freedom of speech'


Well, that didn’t take long (Trafigura)

About an hour ago I wrote about an article in The Guardian about how they had been prevented from writing about parliamentary proceedings via a court injunction.  In particular, they weren’t allowed to write about this question put before parliament:

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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 story became a Twitter sensation.  Trafigura and Carter-Ruck have been the hottest trending topics on Twitter for the last few hours, the Liberal Democrats sought an urgent debate on press freedom and now, as their journalists write furiously in the background with their editors looking over their shoulders to save time, The Guardian is reporting on their front page:

Breaking news: * LATEST: Guardian can reveal that parliamentary question from Paul Farrelly MP subjected to reporting ban was related to Trafigura toxic waste scandal. More details soon ..

Which is to say that the gag has been lifted in under (?) 24 hours.

This has all been a tremendous example of the Streisand effect, named for Barbara Streisand’s catastrophically backfiring attempt to prevent a picture of her house being made available on the internet.  While attempting to surpress attention, Trafigura and Carter-Ruck have only managed attract a huge amount of attention to themselves.

It’s a PR nightmare for them and a happy day for The Guardian.

Update 1: Here is confirmation from the Guardian.

Update 2: Here is the BBC on the matter.  By way of explaining why they did not cover the story despite not being expressly mentioned in the injunction, they say:

No injunction was served on the BBC, but ever since the Spycatcher case in the 1980s news organisations which knowingly breach an injunction served on others are in contempt of court, so the corporation too felt bound by the Guardian injunction.

Which is the equivalent of “once bitten, (forever) twice shy.”  The Beeb finishes by quoting Steven Fry’s tweet from when he discovered the good news:

Can it be true? Carter-Ruck caves in! Hurrah! Trafigura will deny it had anything to do with Twitter, but we know don’t we? We know! Yay!!!

Update 3: BBC Newsnight will have a special on Trafigura and their chemical disposals tonight.


The Guardian is excited to tell you that it can’t tell you what it wants to tell you

From yesterday’s (12 Oct 2009) Guardian:

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.

It sounds tremendously exciting, doesn’t it?

Anyway, the House of Commons Question Book is publically available.  There are thousands of them (questions, that is).  There were 2,344 outstanding questions as of Monday 12 October 2009 (see here).

But the question in question, as it were, is apparantly this one, which as I type has been shifted forward to Wednesday 14 October 2009 (I have no idea, but suspect that unanswered questions get shuffled forward as necessary, so it’s best to start at the root Question Book if you’re searching for something):

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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.

I didn’t figure the question out myself.  I got it from Alex Massie at The Spectator.  Alex also helpfully points us to the Guardian’s reports from Wed 16 September 2009 on Trafigura and their exploits in the Ivory Coast [Main article, supporting article, 8MB pdf of the emails] and highlights the fact that Trafigura is now a trending topic on Twitter.

While I join the general expressions of anger at the gagging of the press over parliamentary proceedings, I also note that this will ultimately serve to help The Guardian’s reputation enormously.