Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Complete Ruckers and Freedom of speech


Carter-Ruck boasts that it is among the most aggressive firms of lawyers that can be hired.
Carter-Ruck promises that it can often "nip in the bud" the prospect of adverse media coverage by going over the heads of reporters to newspaper lawyers and making threats. It boasts of being able to obtain injunctions prohibiting publication of information "often in a matter of hours".

The Bill of Rights, passed 320 years ago, is clear: "Freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament".

Media organisations have recently been unable to report a parliamentary question due to a "super-injunction" obtained by the notorious law firm mentioned above.
It is quite amazing that British judges have been handing down secret injunctions.

Lawyers in this case clearly reckoned without the "blogosphere". In the anarchic, anything-goes world of the internet, where free speech is a frequently-heard rallying cry, injunctions banning publication of anything are unpopular. This one seems to have acted like a red rag to a bull.
The social networking site Twitter was soon awash with posts deploring a threat to media freedom and the reporting of Parliament.

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.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.

This would appear to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.

Bloggers and Twitterers helping to stand up for our parliamentary freedom and freedom of speech?

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