What The Guardian’s Banned From Telling You

This post was written by Owen on October 12, 2009
Posted Under: Civil Liberties,Media,News

Earlier this evening The Guardian was served with a gagging order forbidding it from reporting parliamentary business. To quote the article in the paper itself:

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 on what’s said and done in Parliament is traditionally seen as pretty important in a democracy, so in an attempt to aid transparency, the Third Estate can exclusively report that the question is (probably) this one:

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.

Trafigura, of course, is the company that was recently revealed to be not only dumping toxic waste into the sea near Ivory Coast, but also trying very hard to make sure no one found out. Why they and Carter Ruck would be so keen for this question not to be revealed I’m not sure, (especially as it’s clearly publicly available), but they have a history of this kind of behaviour.

All the questions due to be asked in Parliament from tomorrow (Tuesday) onwards can be found here, so feel free to have a browse through the rest of them – it’s possible I guessed wrong, though I think it’s unlikely. And please, please re-post this – the more places publish it, the harder it is to justify a gagging order and the worse Carter Ruck and Trafigura will look.

Edit: This guy found it too (and a bit sooner than me I think).

Edit edit: You can download a copy of the Minton Report, which Trafigura is so keen you don’t read, from Wikileaks here. (H/t Chicken Yoghurt)

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Reader Comments


If they won’t even let the Guardian publish what the question is, isn’t it quite likely they’ve also removed it from the list of questions too?

Written By Sam on October 13th, 2009 @ 9:35 am

No. You can’t get an injunction against a Parliamentary question, at least as far as I know.

Written By Owen on October 13th, 2009 @ 9:45 am

The Spectator has it today too:

The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned.

Written By Mark on October 13th, 2009 @ 10:46 am
Huw Spanner

I don’t think Trafigura dumped the toxic waste in the sea near Ivory Coast – they “washed” it at sea and then hired an unqualified local man to dump the waste on land, around a major city (possibly the capital?)!

Written By Huw Spanner on October 13th, 2009 @ 11:01 am
Written By David Kemp on October 13th, 2009 @ 11:19 am

Thanks alot David

Written By Reuben on October 13th, 2009 @ 11:26 am

Huw: Abidjan is to Ivory Coast as New York is to the US: not the formal capital, but the most important city by a long shot.

Written By Philip Walker on October 13th, 2009 @ 11:45 am

The internet never forgets.

Written By est on October 13th, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

For readers who want more background on the case, the blog The Poor Mouth has a very good series of posts: http://thepoormouth.blogspot.com/search/label/Trafigura

Written By Bob on October 14th, 2009 @ 10:07 pm

I have knowledge of a situation back in 2005 when The Guardian was not quite so interested in opposing press self-censorship as it is today. It is described on a wiki whose URL is:


You only have to look at what happened when my wife and I visited The Guardian’s offices in Manchester back in 2005 to complain about the government cover-up and human rights abuse that we write about (years of defamation, intimidation, death threats by MI5/6 being covered-up by government).

2 hours after we left The Guardian’s office, my wife and I were threatened in the name of HRH. The following weekend my eldest son, then living in Birmingham, received a number of telephone death threats which he recorded and a vehicle was smashed into my apartment then in Didsbury, Manchester. The Guardian subsequently “lost” all the correspondence I had handed them as evidence (it alleges then Minister Hazel Blears’ involvement with the cover-up – and copies of some of it are on the wiki – including a confirmatory letter to me from The Guardian’s Editor). A month later in the middle of the night my son was woken up by a helicopter that was hovering right beside his bedroom window, and a year later shots were fired at him in front of witnesses. You can imagine what having her children threatened for 10 years has done to his mother. Now The Guardian had every right not to publish my story, but it seems to me that The Guardian was on the side of the abusers since these little threatening incidents were clearly meant to punish us for going to the Guardian. I had booked my appointment at The Guardian in person, and unless we were followed to The Guardian’s offices, nobody except the paper’s staff knew we had met with them. It has been suggested that MI5 / MI6 have penetrated the UK press, and everything I have experienced would suggest that this is true. Roderick Russell

Written By Roderick Russell on October 16th, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

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