Newspaper Legally Prevented From Reporting On Government

This is just fucking disgusting.

The Guardian 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.

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.

If it comes out that the Government were instrumental in having Carter-Ruck gag a national newspaper from reporting on Parliament, all hell will break loose. Christ, even if it turns out a single MP actually went out of his or her way to engage a legal firm against free reportage in Parliament…

EDITED TO ADD:

At parliament.uk, a free resource, one finds, in the “Questions for Oral or Written Answer beginning on Tuesday 13 October 2009″:

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)

62N
Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): 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.

16 thoughts on “Newspaper Legally Prevented From Reporting On Government”

  1. Can someone kind of summarize this? I’m just a stupid American after all. What’s Carter-Ruck / 61N, 62N all about? I take that’s what the Guardian can’t print, but ultimately, from my view, I don’t see what would be National Security or really all the bad in printing. Just odd.

  2. Bill: Members of Parliament can ask the government questions to be answered in person by a government Minister, either in oral form (spoken in the house) or in written form (in which case they generally appear in Hansard, which is a daily report on the proceedings in the house).

    MPs generally table their question by addressing it to the Secretary of State, who then has the appropriate Minister provide an answer from his department. The ’61N’ and ’62N’ in this case are the ‘notice of question for written or oral answer’ numbers in the ‘minutes’ of the house.

    In this case, it appears that the MP for Newcastle has tabled a question asking whether the current laws protecting whistleblowers and journalists are sufficient, given that there have been two high profile cases (the Barclays and Trafigura cases mentioned) where injunctions have been granted against reporting them. It is highly likely that what is stopping the Guardian reporting in this case is the Trafigura and Carter-Ruck injunction probably contains a restriction on reporting anything at all related to the incident, including government proceedings on it. At least, that’s my reading of the situation anyway.

  3. @Dan Ballard

    Or when the 4th Amendment was effectively repealed by the Patriot Act and the erosion of FISA protections?

    Whew. Key members of Congress just barely escaped the chaos that overcame Washington THAT day. Shame what happened to the Capitol Building.

  4. 38 Degrees are currently running a campaign on this. Take action now by emailing your MP and asking them to take a stand. Take action now, it only takes 2 mins. Go to:

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

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