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Posts Tagged ‘Press freedom

The Parliamentary Question Carter Ruck and Trafigura don’t want you to see

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Update 19/10/09 – London art gallery dumps toxic sponsorship deal with Trafigura!

From The Guardian

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.

From Parliament.uk, “Questions for Oral or Written Answer beginning on Tuesday 13 October 2009”

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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.

Click here for more background on the Trafigura/Carter-Ruck libel-abuse cover-up

UPDATE – pleased to see that the mighty Guido Fawkes had the same idea. Injunction scuppered…

UPDATE 2 – “Jack of Kent” gives a legal view

UPDATE 3 – Big thumbs up to The Spectator for, I think, being the first mainstream UK media to break ranks and fully report what’s been going on. If  only they were this good the whole time – for any Spectator staff who are reading, can I request more of the defending-democracy stuff and less of the pseudo-debating AIDS-denialism? I hope Lord Fowler knows what you’re letting him in for!

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Written by Richard Wilson

October 12, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Posted in Don't Get Fooled Again

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UK trade unions condemn restrictions on press freedom and civil liberties

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The UK Trade Unions Congress has endorsed a motion by the National Union of Journalists expressing ‘grave concern’ over the erosion of civil liberties in the UK, and the effect that this is having on freedom of expression.

“The terrorising of journalists isn’t just done by shadowy men in balaclavas, but also by governments and organisations who use the apparatus of the law or state authorities to suppress and distort the information they do not want the public to know and to terrorise the journalists involved through injunctions, threats to imprisonment and financial ruin,” NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear told the conference.

Dear cited the case of Sally Murrer, who is currently on trial for allegedly receiving information from a police officer that he had not been authorised to disclose, and the treatment by police of press photographers in a raid on the “Climate Camp” protest earlier this year.

“Journalists’ material and their sources are increasingly targeted by those who wish to pull a cloak of secrecy over their actions.”, Dear told the conference.

In a similar vein, Craig Murray reports being pressured to making swingeing changes to the text of his new book, “The Orangemen of Togo” (great title!) after Tim Spicer, formerly of the mercenary company Sandline, and now head of the quids-in Iraq ‘security contractor’ Aegis, hired infamous libel firm Schillings, and brought a legal injunction to delay publication.

Murray says that he’s been told, among a range of other changes, that:

– I must refer to Sandline as a “Private Military Company” and portray their activities in Africa as supporting legitimate government against rebels
– I must portray Western action in Iraq as “peace-keeping”
– I must say Shell were involved in corruption in Nigeria “inadvertently”

A few years ago, The Center for Public Integrity did an incisive exposé on Spicer, the origins of the euphemistic term ‘Private Military Company’, and the shady role of such organisations in conflicts as far afield as Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea. It’s sobering to think that someone with this sort of history is now in charge one of the largest contracts awarded to any western firm currently operating in Iraq.

In “Don’t Get Fooled Again” I take a look at the disasters that can happen when freedom of expression starts to break down, and at Craig Murray’s role in exposing UK government wrongdoing after leaving his post as British Ambassador to Uzbekistan.

Free Jean-Claude Kavumbagu!

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I’ve just heard that the Burundian journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu has been arrested on charges of “defaming” the country’s President, Pierre Nkurunziza. Jean-Claude, the director of the ‘Netpress’ news agency has been tireless in exposing human rights abuses and corruption in Burundi, and I am endebted to him for his support while I was writing my last book.

This arrest was triggered by a Netpress report that Burundi’s President spent $100,000 on his official visit to the Beijing Olympics – a particularly sensitive issue in a country where income tends to average about $100 a year.  

Reporters Sans Frontieres has taken up the case, calling for Jean-Claude’s immediate release. According to RSF:

His latest arrest comes at a time of growing hostility among the president’s supporters towards human rights organisations and certain local journalists and privately-owned media, which a pro-government website recently accused of being “children of the dictatorship” concerned solely with “defending what they have gained.”

The Burundi government’s ongoing harrassment of its critics seems to contrast sharply with uncritical-verging-on-hagiographic media reports in the East African press of Nkurunziza’s presidency and his supposed emphasis on ‘forgiveness’.

Bugs, strip-searches and gagging orders – The bizarre story of Her Majesty versus Sally Murrer… (and some even more bizarre claims from Private Eye)

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The press freedom organisation Reporters Sans Frontieres doesn’t usually have too much to say about abuses against media workers here in Britain, but their latest report details some worrying cases – none stranger than the ongoing trial of the Milton Keynes local journalist Sally Murrer.

In May last year, Murrer was arrested by eight police officers, strip-searched and charged with “aiding and abetting misconduct in public office”. She was then accused of paying police officers to supply her with information for stories she could then sell on to the national press, a charge which she firmly denies. The police told her that she had been under surveillance for weeks, and played her recordings of telephone conversations she had had with her friend Mark Kearney, a Thames Valley police officer, which they said proved the case. Murrer was told that they already had enough information to send her to prison for life, and that the police need only show that she had heard information deemed ‘sensitive’ in order to convict her. Kearney and a former police officer Derek Webb (now a private investigator), have also been charged in the same case.

Then in February this year, it was revealed that Mark Kearney had been involved in the secret bugging of the Labour MP and lawyer, Sadiq Khan, during his visits to a childhood friend, Babar Ahmad, who has been detained without charge for several years, pending extradition to the United States (where he is accused of involvement in terrorism). Kearney claims that he repeatedly raised ethical and legal concerns about the work he had been asked to do. He and Murrer believe that the case being brought against him – and Murrer – was a somewhat clumsy attempt to prevent him from blowing the whistle.

Now the print edition of the magazine Private Eye reports an even more bizarre twist. The Eye claims that the detective-turned-private-investigator Derek Webb had been carrying out surveillance operations for the tabloid press against a number of high-profile public figures suspected of having affairs. These reportedly include two un-named (due to the usual legal gagging orders) cabinet ministers, together with the infamous former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, and the director of public prosecutions Ken Macdonald – the man in charge of the department overseeing the case against Webb, Kearney and Murrer. The police seized Derek Webb’s diaries (in which he details his surveillance work) as evidence to be used in the case case against him. Now the crown prosecution service has reportedly declined requests by Webb’s defence team for access to the diaries, claiming that it no longer has them…