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Guardian gagged from reporting parliament

This is just so wrong.
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.

The Guardian has vowed urgently to go to court to overturn the gag on its reporting. The editor, Alan Rusbridger, said: "The media laws in this country increasingly place newspapers in a Kafkaesque world in which we cannot tell the public anything about information which is being suppressed, nor the proceedings which suppress it. It is doubly menacing when those restraints include the reporting of parliament itself."

The media lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC said Lord Denning ruled in the 1970s that "whatever comments are made in parliament" can be reported in newspapers without fear of contempt.

He said: "Four rebel MPs asked questions giving the identity of 'Colonel B', granted anonymity by a judge on grounds of 'national security'. The DPP threatened the press might be prosecuted for contempt, but most published."

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".

This is the thin edge of the wedge and free speech must be restored.

Update The Devils Kitchen has a bit on this, which I have copied below:

Looks like Carter-Ruck solicitors should be in the PR business, because neither I nor, I'll wager, you, had ever heard of Trafigura until they slapped an injunction on the Guardian prohibiting them from - get this - reporting proceedings in Parliament in which Trafigura's name had, apparently, been mentioned.

Well, get comfy, guys, because you're big time now; everyone who's anyone (as well as those of us who aren't) are busily writing about you, and directing baffled readers to articles like this one, in the Independent. In no particular order, you're now famous to the readers of, inter alia, Iain DaleGuidoDizzyNext LeftUnityChicken Yoghurt and Timmy, who between them can't be a kick in the arse off having a higher daily readership than the paper you've tried to gag. (This outbreak of blogospheric solidarity, to put it into context, is akin to the Russians and the Germans taking a time-out from slaughtering each other to erect a big sign in downtown Stalingrad telling everyone that Cary Grant was a poof.)

One day these highly-remunerated libel lawyers are going to wake up and realise that they aren't being paid in guineas any more and that, thanks to this thing called the Interwebs, they can't shut down freedom of speech the way they used to in the old days. On the contrary; as Barbara Streisand found to her cost, 99% of people don't give a shit about 99% of stuff, right up the moment when you start waving your arms up and down telling them to stop reading about it.

If I were you, I'd ask Carter-Ruck to itemise the bill.

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