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Ivory Coast toxic dumping report behind secret Guardian gag

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Tuesday October 13, 2009

Julian Assange (WikiLeaks investigations editor)

A confidential report releaed by WikiLeaks into the dumping of toxic waste along the Ivory Coast, has seen an extraordinary gag order served on the UK media. The order gags the press from reporting a parliamentry question and answer.

Here's the Guardian's David Leigh in an article first published on Monday night before hitting the front page on Tuesday:

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.

In effect, the communication between parliament and the people has been muzzled.

Here is the parliamentry question the Guardian can't tell you about (the Commons' member concerned, Paul Farrelly MP, was a former editor for the Guardian's sister newspaper the Observer):

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.[[1]]

The Ivory Coast dumping mentioned, by multi-national oil and commodities trader Trafigura, is possibly the most culpable environmental disaster since thousands were killed in the Bhopal chemical spill.

What this gags order aims at is preventing the mention of Trafigura and Minton in the same context. The Minton report was released by WikiLeaks on September 14, 2009. Despite this and some rock solid work by Guardian investigations editor David Leigh and other journalists on the boader Trafigura contamination, the Minton report released by WikiLeaks was not named in the UK press, nor were its contents report. Why? Because of the earlier secret 11 September 2009 media injuction against the report, as referred to by Paul Farrelly MP. To-date the UK public has been kept in the dark about the Minton report and its contents. Paul Farrelly's question is an attempt to take on the suppression issue. In the process it connected the Minton report on WikiLeaks to Trafigura, something the UK media has been secretly ordered not to do.

Statements made in parliament, including those of Paul Farrelly MP, traditionally enjoy an absolute exemption from molestation by the regular judiciary. Parliament does not, insomuch as it believes itself to be an expression of the national will, subordinate itself to any other court.

Knowing this, lawyers for Trafigura, Carter-Ruck, told the Guardian that the order covered reporting of Paul Farrelly MP's questions. That Carter Ruck felt this claim was makable is a bold and dangerous move towards the total privatization of censorship. Is a multi-billion pound commodities trader a truer expression of the national will than the House of Commons? The question is no longer rhetorical.

The Commons' gag and the September 11 gag are not the only issues. The London Independent has removed from its site, without explanation, its September 17 investigative article on the issue "Toxic shame: Thousands injured in African city". As for other papers, no one has any idea, because it is the habit now in the UK to secretly remove articles from newspaper archives and their indexes.

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