Mark Steel: It's the wrong people doing the gagging

Share
Related Topics

You can understand why some tabloid newspapers are upset about these super-injunctions. Because when they write something about a footballer with a prostitute it's almost the only time they print a story that's true. Then it turns out that's the article they're not allowed to publish. How is that fair?

The editors must think: "We try to be good and look where it gets us. Now we'll have to print 'Asylum-seeker buggers kitten' again instead." For example, one story that began in The Sun but pops up in other papers, is that a Muslim bus driver ordered his passengers off his bus so he could pray. This turned out to be completely made-up and The Sun was ordered to pay £30,000 compensation, which probably stopped it from following this up with: "Muslim bus driver takes Luton Hopper to Mecca. Instead of stopping at the Town Hall as usual, he insisted on driving his packed bus full of pensioners on to Islam's holy city, then charged the bewildered passengers an extra two pounds each, saying Saudi Arabia fell outside of Zone 3 meaning their tickets weren't valid." So if bus drivers, rather than TV presenters and sportsmen, could take out super-injunctions, that story wouldn't have been printed and The Sun would have saved 30,000 quid.

Or judges should have the power to force The Sun to make up an equally ridiculous story such as: "Christian hospital authorities have told doctors they can no longer refer to patients as 'stable', as this demeans the birthplace of our Lord Jesus Christ. From now on they must declare the patient is 'up shit creek but hanging on'."

Super-injunctions could be taken out by Pacific islands that are slowly sinking, every time the front page of the Daily Express says something like :"It's Official! Global Warming Is Cobblers!" A professor from Peckham said yesterday: "If it's getting hotter, how come it's warmer in the day than what it is at night, which comes after the day? Go on then, answer me that."

Instead, these papers have made-up stories about asylum-seekers stealing the Queen's swans and funding whole towns back home by begging, and all this could be prevented if the price of the legal action came down. Then the beggars could sit outside with a plastic cup, mumbling "Got 30 pence for a super-injunction?" and stop the nonsense from appearing.

How much embarrassment the press would be spared if they could be stopped from making up stories about councils banning black bin-liners and making kids sing "Baa Baa Green sheep", and articles that start: "Now a local council in Manchester has banned the letter 'W' on grounds of health and safety." One paper has a page of stories every week, with a catchphrase: "You couldn't make it up". But the writer doesn't give himself the credit he deserves because he DOES make them up. So we should make super-injunctions affordable, and he'd be free to write something vaguely true.

Some newspaper editors defend printing whatever they like, on grounds such as: "It is very much in the public interest that we are free to make up stories about people we don't like. The moment you take away the public's right to be lied to, you might as well live in North Korea, which is to be twinned with a primary school in Hackney, say council officials from the barmy borough." So there should be "super-injunctions for all". Maybe we could all be given three a year, the way tennis players are allowed three challenges against the umpire.

Having said that, you couldn't help notice Jemima Khan was much quicker to stop the rumour on Twitter about her and Jeremy Clarkson, than Jeremy Clarkson. You can only assume one of them was going: "Uuuuugh no, put a stop to that thought NOW", while the other was thinking: "Hmm, I might let this run a few hours and pretend I haven't noticed."



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker / Telesales

£15000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading supplie...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales Executive - Dereham

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is proud to b...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales Executive - OTE £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is proud to b...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Conservative MP Louise Mensch has made enemies in high places through her fearless pursuit of the hacking scandal  

Thank heavens for Louise Mensch and her foul-mouthed tweets to world leaders

Grace Dent
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London  

When rents are so high that you have to share a bed with a stranger, surely the revolution can’t be far off

Grace Dent
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project