Victory for media in gagging order battle

Tuesday 13 October 2009 13:55

Victory for the media was achieved today in a battle over the right to publish details of a Parliamentary question in what has been hailed a "great victory for free speech".

The order had been obtained by libel specialists Carter Ruck against the Guardian and by extension The Independent.

It means The Independent and the rest of the media can now publish details of a question tabled by Labour MP Paul Farrelly regarding the effect on whistleblowers and press freedom of it and another specific injunction.

Despite the question being on yesterday's Commons order paper and on the Parliamentary website, The Independent and the media generally were barred from reporting who the MP was, which minister would answer the question, where it might be found or even why the gagging order was in place.

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, condemned the restriction as "Kafka-esque".

MPs had earlier called for an emergency Commons debate on the matter amid outrage at Westminster over an apparent threat to Parliamentary privilege.

"Victory! CarterRuck caves-in. No Guardian court hearing. Media can now report Paul Farrelly's PQ about Trafigura," Mr Rusbridger wrote.

"Thanks to Twitter/all tweeters for fantastic support over past 16 hours! Great victory for free speech," he wrote - hours after saying he was seeking a court hearing to overturn the ban, which The Independent attended in order to oppose the ban.

The question tabled by Mr Farrelly for answer by Justice Secretary Jack Straw asked "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"

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