Gag order blocks Guardian from reporting on Parliament

In a violation of British free speech rights dating back to the 1688 Bill of Rights, The Guardian newspaper has been forbidden by court order from reporting on a question in Parliament. We don't know who raised the question, what it was about, or where you can find it.
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...

The right to report parliament was the subject of many struggles in the 18th century, with the MP and journalist John Wilkes fighting every authority - up to the king - over the right to keep the public informed. After Wilkes's battle, wrote the historian Robert Hargreaves, "it gradually became accepted that the public had a constitutional right to know what their elected representatives were up to".

Guardian gagged from reporting parliament

(Thanks to Andy and everyone else who suggested this!)

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  1. Does this only cover The Guardian? If so… well, for one there’s many other newspapers, and what’s to stop them from publishing some other newspaper, rather conveniently distributed to all of The Guardian’s subscribers?

  2. There’s a thread on metafilter about this. Apparently, someone knows what the question asks, and there are links, explanations, and a lot of speculation.

  3. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmordbk2/91013o02.htm

    61
    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.
    (293006)

  4. Ta-dah!

    Thank you Google and http://www.housepricecrash.co.uk.

    The Questions
    61
    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 ( 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.
    (293006)

    62
    N Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will (a) collect and ( publish statistics on the number of non-reportable injunctions issued by the High Court in each of the last five years.
    (293012)

    63
    N Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what mechanisms HM Court Service uses to draw up rosters of duty judges for the purpose of considering time of the essence applications for the issuing of injunctions by the High Court.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmordbk2/91013o02.htm

  5. #EH
    Agreed! If they lose the court battle then “accidentally” allow the information to be picked up by other news agencies and get them all to publish the same story on the same day.

    They can’t sue (and wipe out) and gag all the press in the same country at the same time.

    Can they?

  6. Lord justice Eady and carter ruck are now the de-facto ministers of information working on behalf of anyone with cash to spare.

  7. There’s a far bigger issue surrounding this particular question — that of ‘super-injunctions’ that not only block the reporting of a story, but also the fact that an injunction has been issued, by whom and for what reason.

    They’re a particularly worrying development that are nothing less than attempts to erase particular issues from the public consciousness and the mass media seems happy to accept it — only Private Eye and The Guardian seem to be prepared address the issue.

    For the record, Paul Farrelly MP is attempting to break this ridiculously draconian ruling by raising the issue in Parliament, where’s here’s legally protected by Parliamentary privilege.

    The pertinent questions from that link are:

    “60. To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the Court of Appeal judgment in May 2009 in the case of Michael Napier and Irwin Mitchell v Pressdram Limited in respect of press freedom to report proceedings in court.

    61. 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.

    62. To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will (a) collect and (b) publish statistics on the number of non-reportable injunctions issued by the High Court in each of the last five years.

    63. To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what mechanisms HM Court Service uses to draw up rosters of duty judges for the purpose of considering time of the essence applications for the issuing of injunctions by the High Court.”

  8. Or “Carter-Fuck” as they are often known.

    This kind of blanket silencing is particulally creepy. Not reporting on something from parliament is one thing, but not even being allowed to tell us why is much worse. How can the public trust that there is even a legal reason behind this and not cash, blackmail and back-scratching?

    Here’s wishing for the Streisand effect.

  9. Here I was about to go the House of Commons website to trawl through the published questions and then I realised I should check the comments here. Thanks mralistair

  10. Wikileaks page on the subject:

    “Africa, Waterson & Hicks, a UK law firm acting for Trafigura, a large London based oil and commodity trader, ordered and received this confidential report (the so-called “Minton report”) into toxic dumping practices by its client along and on the Ivory Coast. The report reveals a number of toxic dumping incidents.”

    http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Minton_report:_Trafigura_Toxic_dumping_along_the_Ivory_Coast_broke_EU_regulations%2C_14_Sep_2006

    So Paul Farrelly likely knows of someone who wants to blow the whistle on this thing and wants to secure protection for them. That’s my guess at least.

  11. Don’t worry, troubling reports about things you really shouldn’t know about will soon be repressed by Lord Mandelson. Any ‘news’ that isn’t approved by the UK government and Rupert Murdoch will end up in the internet’s wast paper basket. In his dreams.

  12. WTF??? I would be so ready for a rumble over this if there weren’t so much delicious food being prepared on TV.

  13. 38 Degrees are currently running a campaign on this. Take action now by emailing your MP and asking them to take a stand and stop the bullying action of Trafigura. Take action now, it only takes 2 mins. Go to:

    38degrees.org.uk/stop-the-gag

  14. Farter-Ruck seems to have relented now and the Guardian has published the relevant article.

    Seems to be a good victory for free speech. Interestingly though it highlights the problems of trying to impose these sort of gag orders.

    Despite the lawyers’ best efforts it took very little time before people had discovered and disseminated the truth.

    Another instance of the Streisand-Ralph Lauren phenomenon?

  15. The Guardian really need to fight this. You can’t prevent the reporting of parliament FFS.

    I want to know on what basis this court order was given.

    We need to Streisand the hell out of this. Please can BB publish the Hansard reports for this when they are made available?

  16. The Guardian did exactly what they needed to in this situation:

    They made it very clear that A) There’s important information that we’re not allowed to tell you about and B) We can’t tell you where to get it but we can tell you that it’s a Question to Parliament. By doing this, they ensured that something that would otherwise have slipped under the waves quietly will now get much attention and make a splash.

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