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WikiLeaks victorious over corruption report gag order

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Tuesday July 21, 2009

Julian Assange (investigations editor, WikiLeaks)

Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean Sea
Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean Sea

TODAY Chief Justice Gordon Ward lifted a gag order which had prevented publishers and broadcasters from mentioning 'corruption report' and 'WikiLeaks' in the same sentence.

The order, first issued on Saturday against 11 media companies, and reissued last night, has led to bizarre press coverage, where WikiLeaks was not named, but referred to instead using Orwellian terms such as 'a multi-jurisdictional website'.

The injuncted media companies today argued before the Supreme Court of the Turks & Caicos Islands (a British Overseas Territory and tax haven), that the popularity of WikiLeaks means that the corruption report in question is effectively in the public domain anyway.

The Guardian newspaper found itself in same position earlier this year, when a High Court judge ordered it not to tell its readers that documents exposing a multi-billion dollar Barclay's bank tax avoidance scam were available on WikiLeaks.

The suppressed Turks & Caicos report, written by UK Court of Appeals Justice, Sir Robin Auld, investigated corruption at the highest levels in the Islands. The report was commissioned by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

A redacted version with its most important findings removed was formally released by the Turks & Caicos Commission of Inquiry on Saturday. After only 2.3 hours, the report was removed from the Inquiry's website and was not replaced. On early Sunday morning, London time, WikiLeaks released the full, unredacted report.

According to the report, foreign investors and property development consortiums acquired parts of the beautiful Turks & Caicos Islands by bribing the country's political leadership with millions in loans and secret payments. Included in the payments is a $500,000 secret transfer to the then head of the country, Premier Michael Misick, who is also the recently estranged husband of Hollywood actress LisaRaye McCoy-Misick.

LisaRaye McCoy-Misick and former Premier Michael Misick
LisaRaye McCoy-Misick and former Premier Michael Misick

LisaRaye, best known for the U.S. sitcom All of Us, testified against her husband to the investigating Commission. She revealed the couple's lavish lifestyle, which included $100,000 flights to the U.S in Misick's private jet. When elected Premier in 2003, Michael Misick declared assets of under $50,000. The transcript of LisaRaye's testimony is available on WikiLeaks and was also released by the Commission.

According to statements made to the London Times earlier this month, the UK intends to suspend the Islands' constitution and take direct rule--with the support of British Navy--something that has the press of other British colonies in the Caribbean and Atlantic, such as Bermuda, aghast.

A total Western media failure

The corruption report gag-orders are a result of English jurisprudence, which evolved to protect the dirty dealings of Earls, Barons, and similar multi-generational oligarchs, from public oversight. In many other post-feudal countries, revolutions, occupations and independence movements have reset the jurisprudence clock, establishing cultural and legislative norms for free expression. This is not the case for the UK or its pseudo-independent colonies.

Were it not for the combined efforts of WikiLeaks and the injuncted Turks & Caicos Islands media companies, no doubt the gag order would still be in effect.

Caribbean media has mentioned a concurrent legal action in London to suppress the report.

According to Google News, which indexes over 50,000 news sources, there has been no reportage (outside of WikiLeaks) of the report's redacted findings. No reportage (outside of WikiLeaks and Caribbean outlets) of the pending British takeover; no reportage of the foreign bribery; no reportage of the gag orders or indeed, anything to do with the report's release.

However, do not think that this means there has been no coverage about the Turks & Caicos Islands. Far from it. Since the reports release on Saturday, there have been dozens of articles. A small sample from the last 24 hours:

The New York Times told the world how "... The West Bay Club, a 47-room luxury resort in Turks and Caicos, is offering discounted rates, free nights and spa specials through the winter holiday season ...".

Britain's second best selling newspaper, the Daily Mail told its readers about someone's "... photograph of his wife's bikini-clad behind as they attended the wedding of her ex-husband Bruce Willis and Emma Heming in the Turks and Caicos ... ".

While USA Today interviewed Denise Richard: "Charlie (Sheen) and I went there for our (wedding) anniversary. We had heard about this place that we didn't know anything about it. We stayed at Parrot Cay... Once you get there you don't leave. They have a beautiful fitness spa with yoga classes, massages and a nice, healthy menu."

Not to be outdone, Reuters, a 'hard news' source, issued a newswire: "Turks and Caicos Islands Clocks go back by one hour to GMT -5."

See also

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