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

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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."



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