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back to article Guardian gagged over Commons question

The Guardian newspaper was yesterday prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings, after legal action apparently trumped the media's right to report on the House of Commons. According to the Guardian, yesterday: "Today's published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The …

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Petition

There's a petition been submitted to No. 10 asking for the right to report Parliament to be absolutely enshrined in law. Funny that, I thought the Bill of Rights already said that but I've signed it anyway: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/PressFreedom/

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FAIL

Backfiring marvellously

This explains why both Trafigura and Carter-Ruck are in the top 10 trending topics on that hotbed of irrelevance, Twitter. In an effort to prevent reporting of whatever it may have been, they've managed to raise awareness of it in the minds of hundreds of thousands of people who otherwise wouldn't have given a toss about it, myself included.

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Boring

Did they take their legal advice from Mr and Mrs Boring (USA) who learned to everyones amusement that highlighting your privacy issues to a worldwide audience may not be the smartest thing to do?

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Big Brother

Identify by omission?

Can't they just exercise their right to report on /every other/ question that was asked that day and obviously omit the one they can't identify? Surely this gag cannot prevent them from reporting what else goes on that day.

Of course, none of the other parliament watchers would be able to deduce and widely publicise the stuff the government would happily not have us know...

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Bronze badge
Big Brother

I approve of the injunction

So what is a matter of public record, which was probably broadcast live to the public, cannot be reported by a particular newspaper ?

It's hard to see any legitimacy in the injunction or cause for it and seems to be more a case of 'because we can'.

I however approve of the injunction. Not only is it a shot in the foot but a timely reminder to everyone of how rapidly downhill this country and its - laughingly called - democracy is going.

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Big Brother

the streisand effect in full swing

These people never learn.

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FAIL

Can anyone say...

...Streisand Effect ?

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Bronze badge

If they say it in public, it's public

And public business is also public. They work for us.

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Hmm...

I can't imahine that my true feelings about carter-ruck would be published here... Save to say that in "Old Harry's Game" on BBC R4 the devil's solicitor is Peter Cater-Ruck.

There, that should be publishable, I even managed to avoid the Private Eye nickname.

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FAIL

They still don't get it

When will they learn? It doesn't matter whether they gag or not. It'll be on the web anyway so anyone with half a brain can find it, and their attempts to gag will just attract more attention.

Of course, it _does_ matter, as it's our right to know what parliament is up to.

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Big Brother

Given the obvious publicity this causes

What are they trying to sneak by behind us while we're all looking this way?

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IT Angle

Sir Humphrey Appleby....

...is alive and working hard.

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Already on wiki!

I googled the streisand effect, only to find the article has already been added to the wiki page!

Excellent!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect

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FAIL

Legal tidal wave.

Now all Carter Ruck has to do is get a legal injunction to shut down the internet in order to protect their scumbag (allegedly, my lord) clients from the tsunami of information and adverse comments that are now in the public domain. There is no hiding place in a wired world, even when you employ the services of very expensive Rucking lawyers to cover up your sewage.

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The Guardian has won, it seems!

The Guardian can now report the question being asked. It was about the Trafigura Toxic dumping case.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/oct/13/guardian-gagged-parliamentary-question

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Anonymous Coward

however

seemingly no news of the injunction though? what were it's terms, which judge granted it..

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The next step...

... in removing all our freedoms: Parliamentary business to be conducted in secret. After all, you never know if Al-Qaeda might be listening! Loose lips sink ships, and of course we are (permanently) at war.

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Same old same old.

The Graun has form for doing the journalistic equivalent of rolling over to have its tummy tickled at the merest hint of being Carter-Rucked in the courts. I'm surprised it took an actual gagging order to get 'em to play ball this time.

Interested parties might wish to tickle a search engine with terms like "guardian", "french court" and "carter-ruck" for further information here.

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Unhappy

Not the first time.

Spare me the tears Grauniad.

I recall you even facilitated censorship of your own articles not so long ago...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/askjack/2009/jan/08/phorm-privacy

I don't recall you sobbing your tired little eyes out about that little episode.

TheCowards

TheCensors

TheGuardian

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Pint

Moderation policy here?

So what are the local moderation policies on this subject, now the gag has been removed?

I wrote in a comment earlier (not published) that the Farrelly question also mentions Barclays, whose tax dodging policies were reported on extensively by the Guardian, the FT, and even the Daily Mail, despite the Guardian being injuncted at one point. But Barclays tax dodging was not mentioned at all on the BBC at the time. I wrote that it might be interesting to see if the BBC mentions it now.

It is in the public domain that the Chairman of Barclays is a Senior Independent Director on the BBC Executive Board:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/running/executive/eb_marcus_agius.shtml

Is it OK for this (much shorter, without the lengthy Farrelly quote) one to get past She Who Must Be Obeyed?

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Anonymous Coward

The Guardian should be as ashamed as Carter-Muck..

I haven't bought the Guardian in years, and probably will never do so again. What the hell has happened to investigative journalism these days?

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Streisand victory.

And the internet wins again.

Well done gentlemen and well played!

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FAIL

Aigh!

This US government is out of contr-- er, wait!

This is Bush as his worst! He is j-- Hm.

Reagan! It was Reagan! I mean, Thatcher! Yes, Thatcher! She was th--

Oh heck. How about we use all politicians as raw ingredients for dog food? Or would that be cruel to the dogs?

Remember the good ol' days when politicians didn't pull this sort of thing? No, me neither.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Moderation policy here?

Obviously we had to be very wary with comments on a story like this as I'm sure you can surmise, so your knickers should remain untwisted.

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Anonymous Coward

me again

@teecee: the graun may not have the greatest record, however, their ostentatious compliance with the injunction highlights how appalling it is. And they did get down to the High Court toot sweet..

It seems to me that the problem isn't so much the lawyers, who were presumably instructed to give it a try, as the judge. WTF was he thinking? Who is he? When will he be impeached, held in contempt of parliament, whatever?

Not so much as a peep from the average MP, who's busy trying to work out how to hang on to the ill gotten gains...

Perhaps I ought to lie down in a darkened room, but this seems to be one of the biggest stories in a long time; although the Damien Greene arrest harks back to a slightly earlier time than the 1688 bill of rights.

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FAIL

Dunces, the lot of 'em

Trafigura's alleged involvement in the dumping of toxic waste in Abidjan was the subject of a Newsnight report in May, and again in September of this year. It's hardly a secret.

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Big Brother

RE: Moderation policy here?

@AC

The Barclays case, while certainly interesting, appears not to be the subject of the injunction. The fact that the injunction was sought by Carter-Ruck, and that The Guardian was able to publish that fact, rather gave the game away.

@The Moderatrix

I understand your caution in this regard. El Reg reports elsewhere that websites cannot be held accountable for libellous material posted by commentards.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/17/libel_law_review/

IANAL, but I wonder if this might extend to any breaches of gagging orders. But I don't blame you for not wanting to become a test case.

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@rpjs

"I thought the Bill of Rights already said that"

We have a Bill of Rights in the UK?

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Boffin

@rpjs

I thought reporting of Parliamentary proceedings had absolute privilege, but I was wrong.

Parliamentary proceedings themselves have absolute privilege under the 1689 Bill of Rights. This was extended to the Official Report (aka Hansard) when it became such (in 1909).

Reports by bodies other than Parliament itself have qualified privilege, which only protects the publisher so long as the statements they are repeating are not malicious and have not been discredited.

QP would certainly apply in this case - I can't believe that the unnamed judge (apparently there is still an injunction against naming them!) granted an order that is so blatantly in breach of QP.

Amending the law to protect verbatim reports of OR with absolute privilege and prohibit any injunctive or other relief against their restatement would be a thoroughly worthwhile change in the law.

I also think that the Standards and Privileges Committee should haul the judge up for Contempt of Parliament - perhaps he should be forced to appear before the Bar of the Whole House to answer questions from the Members? Much as I'd like to see S&P recommend a formal trial at the Bar of the House for Contempt, I very much doubt that the modern House has the guts to do their job properly on this one. Still, he should be hauled over the coals to scare off any other judge daft enought to try challenging Parliamentary privilege

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"Not so much as a peep from the average MP"

Indeed not. And if you look at MP Paul Farrelly's voting record on the issues that count [1], he's mostly just ordinary Blue Labour lobby fodder, with an occasional rebellious tendency.

He is however a member of the Departure for Culture Media and Sport's committee which has been looking into Press Standards, Privacy and Libel.

The published but as yet unverified record [2] from their meeting of 2nd June shows that he was already fishing around this particular issue.

Before he was an MP, Mr Farrelly was a journalist, and for the four years before he got his seat, he was City Editor at the Guardian's sister paper, The Observer.

A certain amount of grudging respect seems to be due for Mr Farrelly.

And indeed to El Reg. At the time I write this, I am pre-moderated on The Guardian, and they are still unwilling to let me (or anyone else?) point out that

a) the Chairman of Barclays holds a senior BBC management position

b) the BBC completely ignored the Barclays tax-dodging affair earlier this year

Obviously that's just a coincidence, but an organisation like the BBC needs to avoid even the *appearance* of conflict of interest.

[1] http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/paul_farrelly/newcastle-under-lyme

[2] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmcumeds/uc275-xi/uc27502.htm

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Headmaster

RE: Les Matthew

"We have a Bill of Rights in the UK?"

Since 1688, apparently. Passed as statute in 1689.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_of_Rights_1689

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Sunlight as disinfectant

Talk of some people trying to gag a national newspaper piqued my interest - especially when it is something discussed by our elected representatives in the parliament we all pay for. So a quick Google revealed a host of information, including a PDF of the report in question. In my view, this is one of the great benefits of the Internet - spreading information about issues that need to be aired.

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Paris Hilton

Fans of this sort of thing..

...and there's a lot of it, could do worse than to peruse old Private Eye articles. They take a particular pride in the amoral renta-threat that is Peter Carter-Fuck (for it is he). He seems to have given up trying to sue them for pointing out his and his company's reprehensible behaivior now.

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Co-Accused

Barclays must be loving this. Not.

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Megaphone

@hohoho

Which judge? A tenner says it was Eady, who seems to do anything Carter-Ruck ask him to.

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@AC 17:52

all good... except that Peter Carter-Rucking-Cant died a while ago, which I guess is why "she who must be obeyed" allowed such an inexcusable mis-spelling of his name to appear on here...

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Happy

I forsee

I forsee another "Downfall" parody clip brewing...

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Grenade

I thought EU was above this

Ok the smug EU crusaders can now quit lecturing the Americans on how evil our corps are and how their laws and companies respect human rights and dignity. Trafigura and Carter-Ruck are probably more evil than any of our companies outside the tabacco and defense industries. The Barclay stuff is bad but at least they are not poisoning people (yes Euros, despite your classist thinking Africans are humans just like you). This is not to mention the Phorm and BAE crap sanctioned at the highest levels of government. Don't get me wrong us Yanks sure can't take the high road on these issues but it is disappointing to see civilized Europe on the low road with us.

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SmokeScreens...

.....As one drifts away, another will appear. Why should Britain tremble.

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WTF?

"Barclays must be loving this."

As far as I can tell, Barclays are doing fine. I don't see any relevant coverage in Google News apart from one or two articles which have quoted Mr Farrelly's question in full without further Barclays-related comment. Even the Guardian itself hasn't added anything. And relevant Barclays-related comments on Guardian articles have all been deleted, and I'm now on pre-moderated status, and even factual non-controversial stuff like I posted above re the Barclays chairman on the BBC Executive Board doesn't get through at the Guardian. Not sure what's going on, either at the Grauniad or elsewhere.

So afaict Barclays have every right to be pleased with the (lack of) coverage to date.

I haven't yet watched yesterday's Newsnight, which was supposed to be majoring on the increasing use of media gagging laws. Anyone know if Barclays got much of a mention?

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Anonymous Coward

Trafigura on Newsnight

I'm pretty sure I saw the Trafigura story the first time it appeared on Newsnight. Usually people in that woeful position are well briefed on what newsnight might have on them and how to respond. But the guy they put up (chairman or chief exec I think) had neither - they obviously thought that they'd just pitch up, deny everything/point out how friendly a business they were and that would be that, everyone would love them again. The result was as a good a slice 'n dice as I've ever seen Paxman deliver; a tirade of rather salient, less than corporate friendly facts that left the guy looking a bit bemused and extremely uncomfortable.

You can't beat Paxo in "Avenging angel of Surbiton" mode.

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two things

1. How come a simple court can override Parilament's right to have it's proceedings freely available to the public

2. It is a matter of public record for the court that passed this injuction, the Guardian could surely have reported from that source (ok but no knighthood in 10 years time)

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Grenade

Sidewiki

And while the media are still injuncted from publishing links to the Minton Report, I wonder if they will attempt to get Google to take down sidewiki entries containing URLs.

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