A confidential WikiLeaks report into the dumping of toxic waste along the Ivory coast by UK commodities giant Trafigura has seen an extraordinary gag order served on the UK media, to prevent the reporting of statements made in the House of Commons which mention the report's name.
Here's the Guardian's David Leigh in an article first published on Monday night before hitting the front page on Tuesday:
- 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.
In effect, parliament itself has been gagged.
Here is the gagged question the Guardian can't tell you about (the Commons' member concerned, Paul Farrelly MP, was a former editor for the Guardian's sister newspaper the Observer):
- 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.[]
Ivroy Coast dumping by Western companies is possibly the most culpable environmental disaster since thouslands were killed in the Bhopal chemical spill.
What the Commons' gag order is all about is the mentioning of Trafigura and Minton in the same context. The Minton report was released by WikiLeaks on September 14, 2009. Despite that, and some rock solid work by Guardian investigations editor David Leigh and other journalists on the Trafigura dumping, the Minton report released by WikiLeaks was not named by the UK press. Why? Because of the earlier 11 September 2009 media injuction mentioned in Paul Farrelly's question. Todate the UK pubic has been kept in the dark. Paul Farrelly's question is an attempt to take on the suppression issue. In the process it connected the Minton report on WikiLeaks to Trafigura, something the UK media could not, or would not do.
Statements made in parliament, including those of Paul Farrelly MP, traditionally enjoy an absolute exemption from molestation by the regular judiciary. Parliament does not, insomuch as it believes itself to be an expression of the national will, subordinate itself to any other court.
Knowing this, lawyers for Trafigura, Carter-Ruck, obtained a second, secret media injuction to prevent reporting of Paul Farrely MP's questions. That this alleged order was granted is a bold and dangerous move by the High Court towards the total privatization of censorship. Is a multi-billion pound commodities trader a truer expression of the national will than the House of Commons? The question is no longer rhetorical.So wiggy bloke can fuck right off, innit