Gagging The Guardian – Not

Yesterday The Guardian was prevented from publishing a question put forward by a member of parliament to the UK Parliament by legal threats from one of the parties involved. The question was:

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 Guardian said the gag order “called into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights”, and made it clear that it was “also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament”.

Naturally, outrage flushed through the veins of the social networks and The Guardian pronounced triumphantly this morning that “Twitter can’t be gagged“.

Here is a graphical (or some sort) timeline of how the blogosphere versus Trafigura and Carter-Ruck unfolded over the last 24 hours or so.

Now I haven’t exactly grown up having privileges to the First or the Fifth amendments, but I certainly can appreciate a certain Mr Euginedes when he says:

“One day these highly-remunerated libel lawyers are going to wake up and realise that they aren’t being paid in guineas any more and that, thanks to this thing called the Interwebs, they can’t shut down freedom of speech the way they used to in the old days.”

Other things I learnt of because of this story:  The Streisand Effect, caustic washing (a process whereby gasoline is treated with caustic soda to remove impurities and increase its resale value), and Morus.


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